Lotus Aroma is a 30-year-old Canadian brand of natural wellness and skincare products based on the power of essential oils, with extensive distribution in pharmacies across Canada. Currently in the process of a thorough brand revitalization program, Robert P. Boisvert – President at Dermolab Pharma Ltd – and Sandra Dias – Vice President, Lotus Aroma – talk to BrandBourg about the value of gaining clarity and strategic alignment through branding.

Robert Boisvert and Sandra Dias

BB: What prompted you to rethink the Lotus Aroma brand, considering that it has enjoyed continuing popularity and steady growth ever since its entry onto the market in 1991?

RB: Even though we were experiencing growth, we had a weakness, an opportunity that was not being tapped: a facial care line that was not performing at the same level as other Lotus Aroma products, a brand that was already well established in the natural segment. After conducting some preliminary research, we concluded that we should use the opportunity of the facial care line redesign to redefine our vision for the brand. Use the insights from our research to improve our value proposition and our overall offering.

SD: Innovation, creativity and adaptability are what propels a brand forward. There was increasing competition in essential oils, and we had this amazing opportunity to grow segments of our business that were virtually unknown and untouched but had the greatest potential for forward movement. For essential oils, where there was room to innovate was in the demystifying of essential oils, in making them simple, in allowing people to be less intimidated by guiding them through self-prescription. But we needed to have a clear vision of the brand, we needed to give it a clear purpose in order to be able to unlock this untapped potential.

BB: What do you see as the main benefits of this kind of brand reassessment? What’s the “return on investment” of such an exercise?

RB: The process allowed us to align our entire marketing strategy around a clear vision and a strong direction, in order to create winning conditions for driving sales in stores. Now, whether it’s on our website, in training for cosmeticians, or directly on the product packaging, the message is clear and consistent. In addition, the brand strategy provides a very clear framework to guide new product development.

In terms of financial results, it’s still too early to evaluate our return on investment, since the new facial products have just been launched on the market. That said, Canada’s largest banner has already signed up for automatic ordering of our facial products in all its stores. This is a very good sign!

SD: To me, the most important was getting very clear on the vision and the mission of the brand. Getting clarity, getting rid of the noise also allowed to us get rid of the fear. There was a fear that if we pivoted in the direction that we should go, we might lose a lot of money, or a lot of something, you know? I think the permission and the security to pivot in the direction that we needed to go was the biggest takeaway from BrandBourg. To be able to pivot with a team of experts who have unbiased opinions on your brand; to take the time, as a team, to think it through and share your hopes and fears for the business… that was very valuable.

BB: How did repositioning the brand help strengthen your relationships with your products’ end users, your clients (B2B) and your partners/investors?

RB: To build strong relationships, we must first understand each other. The process has led us to listen more closely to our customers and partners, and to offer them a clearer vision of the brand, with products that are better adapted to their needs and expectations. When you present a clear vision of your brand to people, they’ll like it or they won’t, but at least they’re going to take a stand. So far, the concept has been very well received by everyone.

SD:  I agree. I am deeply convinced that we reinforced the bond by becoming extremely clear on who we were and what we wanted to become. It gave us a clear verbiage and a clear direction, which enhanced our credibility with our different stakeholders. Everything we were doing and saying to them afterwards made sense. Bonding requires authenticity. When you’re clear about who you are and act accordingly, people will recognize you as being authentic and will respect you for it.

BB: The branding mandate extended to providing support for innovation and new product development. Why did you consider it important to include this in the scope of the branding exercise?

RB: To ensure that our new products truly meet the needs and expectations of the market and that they are well aligned with the new brand vision. The co-creation process led by BrandBourg allowed us to create a real synergy between the target users and our marketing and R&D team. Being able to talk to people who could potentially use your new product is a change from reading articles… It’s important to break down these barriers. And when we meet with buyers at the head office, we’re all the more convincing!

SD: As a team, it allowed us to really think it through, from the new brand positioning to what it meant from a product standpoint. The innovation conversation gave us permission to ask: “Even if this product is doing well, is it 100% relevant for the brand and its users?” It pushed the brand to think outside the box – it got our people “out of the matrix.”  The co-creation process gave us confidence that we were heading in the right direction and that our future products would effectively respond to our consumers’ needs.

BB: What would you say to entrepreneurs and managers who feel they can’t afford to invest in a professional branding exercise?

RB: I would ask them if they would build a house without a plan. You’ve got to have a plan. If you’re going to rebrand, you’d better take a step back and do it right rather than try to save money and not have a successful outcome. Branding professionals are agents of change. Often what companies need is a jolt. To be told, “What you’re doing is good, but it could be even better.” Specialized consultants have the experience. They can guide us through what we can do in the present and what we can envision in the future.

SD: I would ask them, “How much is clarity worth to you? Have you ever experienced success when things weren’t clear, professionally or otherwise?” Clarity will help you bring your business to a new level, because when you know where you’re going; what you have to do to get there; the tools available to you; what you’re missing; where you need help… You can get clear on your decisions and it makes it easier to say yes or no. The decision-making process becomes so much easier. The partnership process becomes easier. Greater clarity yields a significant ROI over time.

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