Bit on the side: cleaner hair-care
By Dion Hughes
If there’s a theme to my seemingly eternal involvement in advertising (forty years and counting) it’s that creative people have to demand a seat at the table, across from the client, we have to have a leadership say in the running of agencies, we have to take responsibility. We cannot allow ourselves to be shunted off into the intoxicating world of making pretty pictures and fancy words. Because I believe that, not only are we better off on a personal level when we’re making our own decisions, I also believe that business is more valuable and interesting when creativity is at its core.
So, when I started as an assistant art director at D’Arcy MacManus Masius Brisbane, way back in the days of darkrooms and typositors, and I would receive ‘the idea’ from a copywriter so I could turn it into a layout, I got pissed off and started writing my own ads.
Later in my career, at places like Chiat/Day and Fallon, when I would receive ‘the idea’ in the form of a planner’s brief, I would arch an eyebrow and go to the client to ask more questions about their business.
And when I felt my days sitting in airplanes and boardrooms had less and less to do with helping clients, I quit and started a brand consultancy called Persuasion Arts & Sciences.
We’ve been going for thirteen years, stripping out layers, working directly with great clients, using creativity to grow their businesses.
A lot of our projects are super-secret upstream engagements, but occasionally, we pull in whoever we need to make us into an advertising agency, creating and producing complex communications campaigns.
About four years ago I was on holiday in Mexico, staying on a pristine stretch of beach. Well, it was pristine where the caretaker got up before sunrise to clean it… as soon as the property line finished, the coast was plastic in both directions, from horizon to horizon.
When I got back home I was thinking about this while I was standing in my shower, and I noticed all the plastic bottles. What a hypocrite!
I shopped for a shampoo that didn’t use plastic, and couldn’t find one that I liked. The few brands available didn’t appeal to me, and the products didn’t feel like they would ever replace high-quality liquid shampoos.
That’s when I started to wonder what it would take to make a great shampoo without plastic – a quality product and an inspiring brand that would have a legit shot at weaning mainstream consumers away from their plastic habit.
Just like I do with regular brand projects, I pulled together a team of people who could help work through the possible solutions (only this time, instead of media planners, quant researchers and digital strategists, it was chemists, manufacturers and serial entrepreneurs.) Three of those people ended up becoming partners in the business we started – HiBAR salon-quality hair care that skips the need for single-use plastic packaging.
We launched in October 2018, selling online and in salons and natural food stores. It’s been an incredible experience seeing it grow so quickly – we’ve set aggressive sales goals each quarter and beaten them each time. We’re adding new stores every week, as well as international distribution. And though I learn something new every day, here are some lessons that stand out:
1. Despite my belief that I was one of those creatives who understood business, really, I wasn’t.
I didn’t know anything about pricing strategy, formulation, procurement, manufacturing, distribution strategies, channel strategies… etc etc etc. And guess what… a lateral thinking creative mind makes a difference even in the seemingly arcane boring logistics of running a business.
2. It’s demonstrated again the difference that creativity can make on a business level.
Creating a brand from scratch, filled with purpose and beauty, executed with consistency and care, has so far been a huge advantage. And, whenever we’ve lost our way, we’ve come back to the original idea of the brand.
3. I wish I’d done something like this years ago. When I was explaining the idea to my wife, she casually stuck a knife between my ribs when she said “I remember when you used to have ideas like this all the time.” She was right… and I’d never done anything with them. As they say, an idea is a job half done. I knew I had to make something of this one.
4. People who have trained their brains to think creatively see the world differently. They can hold a vision in their minds and work towards making it real. They recognize problems, and see solutions. And heaven knows there are plenty of problems in the world that need solving.