CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Michael Bruggeman, Founder of ORGANIC MALE OM4, U.S. based organic cosmetics line for men.
How did you come up with the idea of an organic beauty products line for men? What is your professional background?
It seems three converging life paths culminated in the development of the line : (1) my having been raised on an organic dairy farm in Wisconsin and having the opportunity to grow up understanding the power of fresh natural and organic ingredients in sustaining a healthy lifestyle, (2) having enjoyed a rewarding 22-year career in hospital administration with a keen interest in bridging traditional medicine with alternative wellness therapies, and (3) being a spa owner for 10 years and not seeing any men’s products in the market that excited me.
Your company is based in Palm Springs, California. Where do you source your ingredients and how do you make sure they are organic?
While having sales offices in Palm Springs, our lab and manufacturing facility is located just outside of Portland, OR. Approximately 95% of the ingredients are sourced locally in the neighboring Hood and Willamette Valleys and, we are able to trace ingredients to specific acreage on which they are grown.
How can consumers nowadays differentiate between natural and organic products? How can consumers make sure a product contains 100% organic ingredients? – are there some label wordings which consumers should pay attention to?
Consumers have become increasing skeptical of labeling claims and rightly so. Depending on the organic and and/or natural certifying body, the percentage of organic or natural ingredients will vary.
Natural has become a catch all term, as has organic. Organic and/or natural certifications are the most reliable way to know if a product meets either organic or natural standards. Since standards vary widely in both required ingredient content and processing – how the products are put together, you have to know the standard if you still want to select a product that meets your personal definition of organic.
For example, NSF allows the use of certain synthetic food grade preservatives, whereas, USDA does not. The problem is there is no universal standard or definition. NSF, EcoCert and the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) are the most common certifications you will see in the US. Personally, I would love to see a harmonized standard for organic and natural, such as the EU COSMOS standard. Achieving this goal is difficult since big dollars are at stake and there is no real incentive for collaboration.
Compounding the problem is the costs involved in certification at the raw ingredient, manufacturing process and product levels are exorbitant. Many quality organic farmers and wildcrafters producing remarkably pure and potent ingredients cannot afford to certify, nor can many manufacturer’s and Indy brand developers.
A USDA, NSF or EcoCert seal are signs of a product that adheres to organic standards but many not be100% organic. A few key phrases to look for are “100% Organic” on the principle display panel with the USDA seal, “Organic” on the principle display panel with the USDA seal (which requires 95% or greater organic content along with other processing guidelines) and the “Made With Organic Content” which requires greater than 70% organic ingredients along with processing guidelines. You could also see a NSF seal with this level or organics but not a USDA seal.
What is the technology you apply when processing ingredients for your products?
There are several interesting to obscure technologies we employ to ensure the delivery mechanism – the ingredients in which the active organic botanicals are suspended effectively permeates to promote skin health and nutrition.
For one, our serums (STEP 3: Bioactivate) employ and ingenious technology which suspends botanicals are suspended in a small molecule medium which readily penetrates absorption-challenged male skin (our skin is on average 30% thicker than female skin and we have smaller sebaceous glands). A moisturizer molecule is generally the same size as a water molecule which is too large to deliver any active content.
Whenever we use water, it is always restructured, micro crystalized water. The theory behind this type of water is that water loses some of its capacity to hydrate or “wetness” when it is forced to conform to piping structures versus the free flowing water we see in nature. Our water is purified via reverse osmosis and then re-oxygenated and restructured creating a structure that is more akin to water you would obtain from a spring or stream.
One final example would be our Green Clay Clarifying Cleanser – using green clay in a cleansing [product is not common. This product is very different from a gel or cream-based cleanser. This frothy mousse-like clay cleanser effectively absorbs excess oil without over stripping the skin which, unbeknownst to most men, only triggers an unintended consequence – the exact opposite effect, more oil. This is the problem with many oily cleansers. The skin will momentarily feel squeaky clean but not for long.
Your 4 step, four product line is evidently intended to make it easier for men to use the line. To what extent do you target metrosexuals, gay or straight individuals?
Marketing men’s products is a true challenge. I personally believe the term metrosexual is no longer relevant. You have gay men, straight men and an additional category – women. Women still account for 50% of all men’s skin care purchases according to L’Oreal’s 2011 corporate report. Our own statistics two years prior indicated that 62% of all men’s skin care purchases were made by women. I am happy to see the shift which is also reflected in our sales. Unilever’s Old Spice brand reintroduction and the launches of Dove Men’s and Vaseline Men’s, over the past two years have greatly impacted sales of unisex products. Men now see they have options and are responding.
Still the imagery and copy which appeals to a gay versus straight man is vastly different. It is truly a challenge to create a universal brand image and campaign which cuts across these two segments while still appealing to women.
What have been your key strategic marketing communications activities to create awareness for your brand and to reach a specific target? What activity or communications has, so far, proven to be the most effective?
Year’s one and two have been dedicated to B2B marketing communications, mostly in trade publications and by personally attending promotional events designed to build wholesale relationships and enlist resellers in spreading the news.
In 2011, we hired a stellar PR firm in New York – LaForce + Stevens and have gained significant brand traction due to increased editorial coverage in major publications – Men’s Journal, Vanity Fair, Ebony, New York Times…
The end of 2012 and Q1 2013 with mark the launch of a new strategy to begin B2C advertising, including a revamp of the web site to focus on end users versus our spa and retail partners. A more user friendly eCommerce strategy will be employed at that time, as well.
Have you considered celebrity endorsement? Please elaborate.
I have and it is not easy to resist seeking celebrity endorsements, as they work. I like the idea of featuring stories about real men across America from random walks of life. I believe the next generation of consumers is savvier and understands truth in advertising. While some endorsements are legitimate, many are just photos of a celebrity holding a product at a gifting suite before a major event. That kind of marketing does not resonate with me.
Organic certification is still in its early stages, whether in Europe or the U.S. Please tell us more and what you think should be done?
As I mentioned, I believe a harmonized world standard is in order. However, with no incentive to collaborate it is difficult to gain traction on this initiative. The stakes and potential lost revenue by any one certifying entity is too high.
Do you have plans to expand your line? – body products, hair, candles etc.
Funny you should ask that. We have toyed with the idea because our current resellers have asked that we do. We have a very unique shampoo and conditioner formula completed, as well as, a body line. Strategically, we are still not certain this is a path we want to pursue. We are a men’s face care specialist. Our products did not originate as adjunct SKUs to a shaving line or niche spin off any of the many women’s lines that produce 4-8 men’s SKU’s.
Our products were designed exclusively for the physiological differences in male and female skin. Cleansers, are formulated to the address the fact that men’s skin is approximately 20% oilier than female skin due to testosterone. pH Balancers (aftershave splashes) are designed to address the fact that men’s skin is more sensitive than their female counterparts which is somewhat counter intuitive given it is, on average 30 thicker. We shave and drag a razor across our surface protective barrier (the acid mantle) and compromise our skin’s immune system daily. The botanicals selected in these products address men’s shaving-related skin issues.
Some organic beauty lines in Europe also come with a range of homeopathic products (entirely organic), especially antioxidants, immune system boosters etc. This has proven to be highly successful. Have you considered developing such a line?
Homeopathy is near and dear to my heart and optimal skin health and nutrition equally so. I am interested in creating products which promote skin health from the inside out.
Currently your products are distributed through health clubs and SPAs, however, they vary in terms of positioning – some of these locations are mid-range, some are premium and some are luxurious. How would you define the positioning of your brand?
You are very astute to pick up on one of our key challenges. You will note the tag line beyond the 4 PRODUCTS | 4 STEPS | 4 MINUTES | 4 MEN is Skin Care 4 Men of the World. Various combinations of our products also address ethnic differences in skin. If I truly want to be the leader in men’s skin health and nutrition, I have to look at multiple distribution channels and provide product access to a variety of differing demographics.
The current brand is better aligned with a higher end spa demographic because it is helpful to have a professional involved in making skin recommendations. Since OM4 is the first comprehensive skin type- and condition-specific line to enter the US market which is equivalent in scope to any of the leading women’s lines. It is helpful to have a professional help men navigate the line. In the future, we plan on segmenting more effectively through the launch of a separate mass brand that is more akin to the Armani and Armani Exchange concepts.
The OM4 Skin Fitness app, which is accessed by going to www.OM4men.com and selecting the Skin Fitness app in the upper right hand corner of the home page, is a virtual esthetician/app that provides a custom recommendation based on the data entered. There are over 43,000 possible combinations of products that could be recommended.
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