This week is the Indie Beauty Expo in New York. That’s a trade show that has never been on my radar. But this year one of the rebrands being unveiled at the expo is the work of TIV Branding…the culmination of the blood, sweat and tears of the last eight months. Sumbody natural beauty products.
We were contacted by Owner and Founder Deborah Burnes in January of 2018. Her brand, Sumbody, was started in the 90’s and hadn’t seen a facelift since its inception. Her search for an agency to carry out a rebrand took her all over the country, so she was thrilled to find TIV Branding a couple of miles from her facility in Sebastopol, Ca. We learned through the process that this was essential, as we put many miles on the road between Old Railroad Square and Sebastopol.
I think looking back, that was at the biggest learning…and I suppose I’m meant to save the big lesson for the end of this in order to keep you reading, but that’s what happens when you get a designer writing articles. I learned early on that this Owner/Founder, who said she wanted us to drive the rebrand, tell her what to do, and dial back the brand’s connection to her, could never be disconnected from the brand. She was the brand. And the brand was her.
That wasn’t an easy conclusion to come to. We did our DISCOVER phase and researched the competition, audience, and opportunities. But weaving in numerous meetings with Debbi helped us realize pretty quickly that the strongest strategy was to embrace her connection to the brand. The question was if she would agree.
The other immediate challenge was the name Sumbody. It was awkward to say when I was describing our newest client to the team: “We’re working with Sumbody.” Imagine the “Who’s on first base” conversation that ensued. But the name was well-known in the Indie Beauty industry and changing it was not a smart option, so we immediately set off on the task of explaining the name in a more direct manner. The concept of the name was good: The total approach, meaning the sum of all the things you put in and on your body, is what the brand is all about. It was just confusing without some sort of explanation on the front of the packaging.
The solution we developed for the sum became obvious the more I thought about it. And the concept of the ingredient equation was introduced in our initial round of designs. If the ingredients were what worked together to make the perfect product, then why not highlight that on the packaging, for instance: organic fruit extract + olive oil + green tea. Front and center.
DEBBI & HER TEAM
I was a bit surprised how quickly Debbi embraced the concept of the “Handmade by Debbi and her Team” icon we introduced in that first round of concepts as well. Her initial conversations about how she thought the brand could go further if it wasn’t directly connected to her made me nervous to push the approach. But her immediate reaction made us realize she understood the power of the actual person behind a brand.
The circle made sense. They had used the simple icon since the 90’s. But I was not sure we could find a unique enough circle to use it as an ownable icon. I mean…it’s a circle. So the focus became not on the shape, but the story is told. Again, we went back to the concept behind the brand name and used the circle to symbolize a connection of all things. The circle became the connection of all the components that made the product and the brand special.
ORGANIZING THE PRODUCT LINES
The most time-consuming portion of the project was working to develop the strategy, concept and then color story that made the products easier to shop. While the brand hadn’t seen an update since it was launched in the 90’s, the product line had grown substantially. It was the epitome of a brand with bolt-ons wherever possible. From a consumer standpoint, it was nearly impossible to figure out why different packages had such different looks. And we all knew that some order needed to be established.
In the end, the strategy was pretty straight-forward, as all good strategies are, but the implementation was a beast. We had over 300 products to organize. Not only was the challenge of finding the perfect combination of colors difficult, but the fact that we weren’t using Pantone colors for printing made the task of knowing how the printer’s calibration would affect the final product nearly impossible. In the end, we relied on printing swatches of various color builds on the actual press to see how they would translate on the final package.
THE SUM OF OUR CONCEPTS
In the end, the power of our process and our ability to learn a new industry and develop a strong strategy became the overarching success of the Sumbody rebrand. The clean design shouldn’t be downplayed, but the story told in such a clean, simple and immediately digestible way is the real accomplishment. It was the sum of the equation, the connection to the founder, and the meaning behind the new logo that really made this rebrand something great.