BY RIDER THOMPSON
Every Man Jack is based in San Francisco and carried by Target stores nationwide. The line includes shaving gel & cream, body wash, face wash & lotion, soap and hair care (currently available in test markets only).
Every Man Jack has more in common with products you’d find at Macy’s or Nordstrom than it does with its shelve-mates at Target. Nevertheless, it is redefining men’s grooming and offering customers a better choice in terms of ingredients and design than anything in its price point.
All Every Man Jack products sell for $4.99 or less. Viola is counting on this simple, direct pricing approach, combined with trendy graphic & industrial design to draw consumers. Better, healthier ingredients are another feature, beyond the products’ low cost and high end appearance. But it won’t be easy. Men are generally a difficult group when it comes to introducing new products, especially grooming or personal care items.
Studies have shown that most men are reluctant to try new products, and tend to stick with old staples; this is not necessarily a result of the staple’s quality over new products. It appears men are simply habit bound when it comes to their product use. The motivation to research and to find new products isn’t as common with men as it is women. This is one of the reasons you often see gift packs of grooming products available and featured in stores. Often these gift packs are offered by new brands or specialty brands. Young companies hope a family member or friend will buy the gift pack and give it to their husband, father, etc, who will then try the product and possibly switch allegiance.
Viola, 35, is aware of these challenges. Business degrees from both Berkeley and UCLA prepared him to work first with Oakland-based Clorox and then Method before starting his own business. Working at Clorox and Method offered him many important insights and contacts within the industry.
“Seventy percent of retail purchases are made at the shelf,” says Viola. “So a product with low brand awareness better have great design. I’ve always believed your product is your best marketing tool,” he said. His line clearly embodies this ideal.
When Viola started to explore making men’s grooming products, his first challenge was to create a niche in the marketplace apart from what was already available.
The task of formulating the products became one of deciding what ingredients to leave out, rather than include. “I went through the products piece by piece and asked, ‘why do we need it?’ For anything that was added,” he said. Just by questioning the current “way of doing things” in making grooming products at this price point, Viola was able to make his product better. This small move allowed him to make the new line different and better than his competitors.
In a recent phone interview he emphasized one of the main ingredients he chose not to include was tallow. Tallow (stearin) is a beef fat that is a common component of most soaps. “I thought it was disgusting,” he said.
He didn’t stop there. None of his products use parabens (synthetic preservatives), and instead use natural alternatives. Other things he left out include dyes, sulfates, oils and SLS.
However, having high-quality formulas and natural ingredients wasn’t enough for Viola. The next step was creating a brand identity. He knew his products needed to be masculine and easily identifiable, due to initial low brand recognition.
The answer was graphic and industrial design. The consumers Viola is going after want products that are easy to use, perform well, are masculine and well designed. “There isn’t a whole lot going on in design in household and personal care products in this price point,” Viola said. “Sure, you’ll see it in higher priced designer products.”
He made an interesting comparison by noting the food industry is much further ahead in terms of design at lower price points. “If you walk through Whole Foods you’ll see more of an emphasis on design in food products,” he said.
Viola is certainly familiar with the power innovative graphic & industrial design can have on a customer. After all, in 2001 when he was with Clorox he noticed a high concept dish detergent on the shelves at a local Target. The dish detergent was made by Method, and as reported in Advertising Age, left Viola wondering why Clorox couldn’t do something similar. Just about a year after he found this intriguing detergent he was VP of Marketing for Method.
Michael Rutchik of Mudhaus was placed in charge of the graphic design of all Every Man Jack packaging. Rutchik created the identity for Method and was the perfect person for the job. Viola wanted something that was “clean, modern and had a splash of color.” He was inspired by several “really cool modern barbershops,” and got the idea of employing a wood grain from these classic masculine interiors. Rutchik incorporated the idea into an identity for the brand.
The final piece of the puzzle came from industrial designer Wai-Loong Lim of Y Studios. Viola wanted a custom design for some of his packaging. Lim designed the containers for the face wash, body wash and hair care products. The design was inspired by the overall identity of the line, and an unexpected source: an old Mexican tequila bottle. It was perfect.
Putting the graphic and industrial design pieces together, all of Viola’s products would feature a wood grain cap. Three of them would use stock containers and three would use the custom containers Lim created.
With the packaging and product formulations set, Viola was ready to launch his line. He approached Target to carry his products, saying the large-scale retailer was an ideal fit in terms of its consumer base. The products launched nationwide in April, and he has been busy supplying Target since.
Currently, Viola is focusing all his efforts on supplying Target and developing his line. In the future he expects the line to be available at other retailers, and is also working on new products.