In 1993 Malcolm Rands, together with his wife Melanie, launched a small mail-order business supplying green every day household products, all with the aim of creating a healthier, more sustainable world. 19 years on and the ecostore brand has come a pretty long way from its roots in the Rands’ basement of their eco-village property in Northland. But with a range that spanned over 100 products as of last year, and with complacency a known enemy of innovation, ecostore has undergone a massive formulation and design makeover, the results of which were revealed at an event at the company’s home base in Auckland last night.
The rebrand is the culmination of two years worth of brand strategy, research, design exploration, refinement and production, both in New Zealand and Australia. And the result is an expanded portfolio that now includes 69 new product designs, 18 new bottle designs, 11 new lid designs, nine new product formulations, four totally new products, four new fragrance extensions, two distinct ranges (body and cleaning) and a hefty investment in order to use post-consumer regrind plastic in its bottles.
Under the watchful eye of ecostore’s marketing director Melissa Fletcher, the collaborative rebrand involved Special Group, responsible for the design strategy and all of the graphical treatment, artist John Reynolds, responsible for the new artwork across the body care range, Mark Smith and older sister Deborah Smith, who were the art photographers for the cleaning and baby care ranges, and design consultancy pHd3 who came up with numerous new bottle designs.
The idea of securing Reynold’s was to bring art to life on supermarket shelves, as the brand has already done on billboards, and his black and white artwork meshes well with the black and white photography of the cleaning and baby care range.
Melanie Rands says she didn’t have to try to hard to secure Reynolds as the main driver behind the look of the labels for the new body range, because it was a project that fitted in with his values. In fact it’s not the first time Reynold’s work had appeared in the ecostore mix. In one of ecostore’s earlier product shoots at photographer Deborah Smith’s house, a piece of Reynold’s work features on the wall in the background.
Aside from investing heavily in the artistic and photographic elements of the rebrand, a fair bit of work has gone into the actual physical bottle design and formation. Jim Griffin, partner and product designer at pHd3, says the brief from ecostore was long and involved.
“The idea for ecostore was for products to be intuitive and minimal and not over styled. It had to fit in with their philosophy.”
As well as the challenge of creating something that was low key yet still stood out on shelves, Griffin says there was also a challenge in differentiating the packaging across the three categories of cleaning, body care and baby care, which he says previously had looked a bit “generic” and meshed into one.
A conscious decision was made to split up the three products ranges through bottle design, working closely with the graphics folks to achieve the desired outcome. Griffin says they also wanted to stay away from a stark white bottle colour and instead opted for a bone colour.
But aside from being a little more intuitive, the new range of bottles will, over the next 12 months, also be a little more sustainable, with ecostore’s manufacturing partner Forward Plastics incorporating a higher percentage of recycled post-consumer regrind plastic material in its bottles.
Meanwhile, the photographic work of Mark and Deborah Smith, together with Reynold’s artwork, will be slapped on fully recyclable labels that come complete with water-based adhesive and are ISO 14001 Environmental Management certified.
Fresh from an impressive Axis Awards, where the little indie that could backed up its top billing in 2010 with second place in the agency rankings this year, Special Group’s creative director Heath Lowe describes the result of the collaborative effort as an example of how business, art and design can be successfully mixed—something he says isn’t always an easy combination to get right. So while there’s always been plenty of potential with the ecostore brand, perhaps this massive overhaul is what’s needed to force the company into traditionally rather elusive profit-making territory.