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Beauty & Cosmetics

Style with Substance





A Scandinavian beauty brand is proving that its family values are no passing fashion. Eleni & Chris’ mother-and-daughter team Inger Ellen and Christinah Nicolaisen is a beauty range made with natural ingredients from their native land, including what they report is “the most significant anti-aging discovery for a decade” according to scientists. Ellen owns the hair salon firm Raise Group, including the Nikita Hair chain, and Eleni & Chris was initially launched as a Salon Professional brand, before extending into skincare and beyond.

The trend for naturally-derived products has been less prevalent in beauty. Nicolaisen believes that “with beauty you have been taught to expect instant results” rather than trusting nature. The business behind Eleni & Chris began in salons, but the story of the brand can be traced farther back. Ellen’s grandfather cultivated cloudberries, a nutrient-rich fruit growing under the midnight sun, a natural event in far northern geographies when the sun remains visible at midnight. Neighbors frequently stole them, to her grandfather’s considerable distress. Ellen recalls, “He got so angry, I knew there had to be something special about this cloudberry.”shampoo

Years later, working with Nicolaisen, who had studied business at London Universities—she obtained proof. Nicolaisen explains: “We sent some berries for laboratory analysis. Each berry has four times more vitamin C than an orange, as well as other vitamins, calcium and magnesium.” The pair set about harnessing this goodness. Working exclusively with the producers of SEA3oil, an omega oil made from the skin of glacier-dwelling salmon, and using pure glacier water, they created the Eleni & Chris Salon Signature range, targeting a most discerning audience—professional stylists working in Nikita Hair salons.

Competition without sacrifice

The global brands that dominate beauty can offer discounts across large product ranges. To compete, without sacrificing margin, the business needed a brand to encapsulate its story and values, and provide scope to stretch. London-based Dew Gibbons & Partners was chosen as design partner. Amber Barrow, senior account manager, explains that the positioning, Beautifully Different, is inspired by the Nordic environment, and the contrasting characters of Ellen and Nicolaisen themselves: “There were two ideas: Pure Scandinavia focused on the ingredients, but Beautifully Different was a perfect fit, combining the ingredients, from that beautiful landscape, and the personalities behind the brand.” Ellen confirms “I am instinctive, Nicolaisen is more considered.”

Together, the brand team and designers developed a consumer pen portrait, Vanessa: a young, dynamic, aspirational San Franciscan (although Barrow notes that she was archetypically Scandinavian, and not unlike Nicolaisen herself).The logo, based on the cloudberry, reflects a specifically Scandinavian purity. Nicolaisen explains, “It’s a raw and edgy pureness, as the Scandinavian landscape is quite harsh.” The use of contrasting colors on packaging evokes this environment. “We don’t have four seasons,” remarks Nicolaisen, “it’s Heaven or Hell.” These extremes give the cloudberry its remarkable qualities. They also apply to the challenges our bodies face in a fast-moving, relentless, urban world.

Selling through salons was a crucial consideration. Barrow emphasizes that contrast goes beyond color. Matte and gloss finishes are juxtaposed on-pack, providing tactile as well as visual contrasts. This is significant to the brand experience, because stylists handle the products extensively. The agency also developed displays to help the products stand out in a setting where packaging is never the center of attention.


Brand design delivers strong ROI

scandinaviaThe six-strong Eleni & Chris Salon Signature range launched in August 2015, into a static Salon Professional market, heavily reliant on stylists’ recommendations. Within seven months, the brand had 14% of salon sales, double the target. Sales value was more than twice the original objective, and return on investment was achieved within four weeks. Stylists are a tough audience; they demand optimum performance. Ellen says that, while stylists in Nikita Hair Salons “were enthusiastic for something different, something Scandinavian” the brand has to deliver an authentic and premium experience. Notwithstanding the Vanessa persona, she emphasizes that Nikita Hair salons have a demographically diverse customer base, so stylist recommendations were critical.

As a brand entwined with the story and characters of its founders, it is important that the overall experience reflects these values. As Nicolaisen says “We did not want our brand platform to be a piece of paper in a drawer. It is easier for a small brand now. We do a lot in digital, and PR is very important.” Advertising visuals were created from a photoshoot at a Norwegian glacier (Dew Gibbons contributed sketches and storyboards). The Beautifully Different concept is also expressed through Beautiful Minds, by which 2% of profits are donated to Ellen’s foundation, A Hand to Children. Ellen explains that this is inspired by her grandmother, Dagny: “She told me that the only real joy you can have is when you make someone happy.”

Having established awareness in the salon professional category, the brand extended into skincare. This involved entering an even tougher competitive environment, retail, in which the product has to stand out on crowded shelves. “We are very excited about the interest so far, and the high levels of repurchase.” Nicolaisen comments. April of this year saw more launches, in the form of a new styling range, and Nicolaisen says their sights are set on further innovation. “We are working on color cosmetics and fragrance, and developing more products for men,” she shares.

These Nordic adventurers are determined to bring a breath of fresh air to the beauty brand landscape, all the way from the Arctic Circle. 

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