Long hailed as the genius behind the best naturopathic facials in New York, with a client roster that includes Julianne Moore, Rachel Weiss, and numerous beauty editors around town, Joanna Vargas is the secret weapon of VIPs, celebrities, and professionals in New York City. Style.com calls her "the queen of the naturopathic facial" while Vogue, Allure, and endless magazines and blogs have praised the nearly magical touch she brings to the craft.
What a thrill it was, then, when I got a call to help the skincare diva rebrand her already successful salon. Jump forward 18 months, and we were then in the next phase of growing the brand: developing a world-class luxury brand for her own skincare line. After discussing who her clientele were, studying her already impressive reputation, and learning where the brand needed to go, it quickly became obvious that Vargas's existing look was out of sync with what her brand was about.
The previous design consisted of a soft pink color with a cherry blossom illustration. For the new designs (pictured below), we decided to embrace details of New York City: wrought iron style details, hints of art deco, and a custom monogram. We also elevated the tagline from "skin care" to "skincare sanctuary." We then used paper and color—including embossed business cards and bags with fabric handles, espresso-colored paper, gold foil, and two specialty tissue papers (pictured top)—to emphasize the luxuriousness of the brand.
Years ago, Scott Bedbury—the guy behind Nike's "Just Do It" branding campaign—told Fast Company, "In an age of accelerated product proliferation, enormous customer choice, and growing clutter and clamor in the marketplace, a great brand is a necessity, not a luxury." Fact is, every company has its own brand—whether by design or by circumstance—it's simply a question of how good it is, how well it aligns with the brand’s values, and how well it distinguishes that singular voice each brand strives for.
Recently, I spoke with Vargas about her rebranding, the launch of her skincare line, and how the new designs more accurately reflect her brand. The Q&A follows below.
Can you first give those unfamiliar with Joanna Vargas a snapshot overview of what services you offer and what your brand represents?
Joanna Vargas: I have a skincare salon in the heart of Manhattan. We provide the latest technology with the purest ingredients to deliver real results for our clients. I think we are known for really delivering to each client exactly what they want and more. Customer service and glowing skin are what each client gets every time they visit.
In 2009, you initiated a brand makeover. What prompted that rebranding?
Our business had grown quite a bit in our first three years, and I had cultivated a great reputation in the industry. But I really felt we fell short in showing just how great and unique we were at our services. Branding seemed like the missing piece of the puzzle.
What impact did the new brand identity have with clients and those newly discovering your salon?
I think to my existing clients, they were impressed at how far I had come as an esthetician and as a businesswoman. To a new client, my brand image now matched my reputation.
This year, after years of testing out product lines on clients, you launched your skincare line. What were some of your objectives first, in terms of product, and second, in terms of brand image and message?
In terms of product, I wanted to put my years of experience in the field to good use. I know what it takes to deliver beautiful healthy skin to everyone. The skincare line was mostly inspired by my knowledge of nutrition and the role our lifestyle plays in the way skin looks.
The brand direction was simple: Be elegant, beautiful, unique. I wanted the packaging (pictured below) to let the client know that there was something really special inside. I think we really got it right.
How important, in conveying your brand attributes to clients, was the role of design and image in your packaging?
As a woman, I know I have tried a product or was more willing to buy something if I found it aesthetic. I knew the role of packaging was absolutely important in conveying this.
Is having a brand a "luxury" these days? In other words, can a company afford to ignore that side of the equation in business today?
Nothing that I have done in terms of my branding are things I would consider a "luxury." It is absolutely essential that people understand branding is a part of the communication you need to have with potential clients. My new business tripled with the new brand. Without it, I would not have been able to realize my dream of a skincare line.
I want to thank Joanna for taking the time to provide a business owner’s viewpoint on branding in such a competitive category in the city where one has an endless range of choices. To successfully carve out a voice in the city that never sleeps is another diamond in her tiara.
To work with a company that knows the power and use of a brand is key in today's economic climate and competitive landscape. Pretending the challenges of branding will go away (while staying relevant), or not staying informed enough to know—and proactively maintain—a brand's relevance are two enemies no brand can ignore. Two aspects that may become the topic of an upcoming post.
How have you managed to give your brand a competitive edge by defying the norm and rising above the noise? Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear your stories.
Recipient of over 320 national and international design and branding recognitions and awards, David Brier is an award-winning brand identity specialist, package designer and branding expert. His firm's work can be regularly found in blogs, publications and award annuals. David is also the author of Defying Gravity and Rising Above the Noise. David's series of videos shed new light on real branding in these short TV interviews. David's latest video entitled "Branding and the Power of the Consumer" has received rave reviews. Follow David Brier on Twitter. You can also request your own copy of David's free eBook, "The Lucky Brand" here.
Recipient of over 320 national and international design and branding recognitions and awards, David Brier is an award-winning brand identity specialist, package designer and branding expert. His firm's work can be regularly found in blogs, publications and award annuals. David is also the author of Defying Gravity and Rising Above the Noise. David's series of videos shed new light on real branding in these short TV interviews. David's latest video entitled "Branding and the Power of the Consumer" has received rave reviews.
Follow David Brier on Twitter.
You can also request your own copy of David's free eBook, "The Lucky Brand" here.