Q: What was the inspiration for your product / getting your business started?
Lee: I started wet shaving almost immediately once I began shaving because I was fed up with the poor shaves and unaffordable cost of cartridge razors such as the Mach 3. Once I moved away from cartridges, ditching the aerosol shaving cream came naturally. While not as expensive as the razor, the poor quality & waste drove me to look for a better lather.
I had always been into knives and sharpening them. When I was 8, I once tried to sharpen my grandmother’s butter knives (I got them pretty sharp, but back then I had no idea that steel needed to be hardened in order to hold an edge). So, switching to a straight razor over a cartridge and skipping DE razors came naturally. I soon found out a few things. 1) they get dull fairly quickly if you don’t strop them, and 2) a 1,000 grit stone was not nearly fine enough (contrary to the knife store employee) . Fairly upset about the wasted money, I decided to figure it out myself. I’ve been sharpening my own razors ever since.
Prior to starting WSP, I used to sharpen & restore vintage straight razors as A Sharper Razor as a side business. WSP began because back in 2010, there were no reasonably priced shaving brushes of good quality. So, I set about figuring out what exactly went into them, what caused the costs to be so high, and how to get the cost down to a reasonable level. On my journey I discovered that more than half the cost of most grooming products is actually packaging! My tireless devotion to cut the fat and offer luxury quality products without the exorbitant price soon led me down the road to setting up a small soap factory.
The rest has been a whirlwind journey of discovery. After shaving soap, I started fiddling with bar soaps and aftershaves. Then my customers asked me to make beard oil and shave oil. Aftershave lotion/balm. Hand balm. Beard balm, mustache wax, & lip balm. Today, I formulate all sorts of grooming products with more to come.
Q: 5 words that best describe your branding imagery?
Lee: Classic, clean, simple.
Q: Tell us about your Brand Image process: Did you develop your brand image in a formal, structured approach? Or did it evolve more organically?
Lee: It all started with the name of the company. I secured the domain "wet shaving products.com", so that was that. WSP is just the initials, but copying successful brands in the field, I had my logo designed around the classic, simple aesthetic. The decision to use the WSP logo was easy, I needed something small to place onto products. The rest was up to the designer.
The tag line used to be "for discerning gentleman" but that was too vague. One day after thinking about new lines for a long time, I came up with shave against the grain. After taking a MOOC on brand archetypes, I figured I was the rebel, so going against the grain fit right in.
Q: Is the brand imagery pretty well established for you now? Or is it still evolving?
Lee: Getting the brand image correct before I even launched was important. Other than the tag line (which really isn't terribly important to nail at the beginning), I haven't changed a thing about the brand.
Q: What were some of your biggest hurdles or mistakes? Anything you would have done differently?
Lee: Regarding the brand only. I would do a two things differently, given the chance to go back in time.
1) Be broader. I sell beard products now and get a lot of rude comments on Facebook whenever I try to advertise to bearded guys.
2) Don't call the company what the products are. You won't be able to register it nationally later.
My promise is and always has been luxury quality at premium brand pricing. If I could do it over again, I would make a luxury brand. But I'm a premium brand, that's my positioning and that's where I'm stuck. Anything else would require a re-branding.
I make beard products now, but the company name is wet shaving products. I get a lot of trolls on facebook if I ever advertise to bearded guys. So I don't advertise beard products on facebook anymore.
I never explicitly state that I make top tier products at middle tier prices, but it's obvious. I don't have to say it. The quality & price speak for me.
Q: Any hacks or tricks you learned along the way that were pivotal?
Lee: Work smarter and harder. If you're an artist, your brand is your name. Your brand is you. Your logo is that signature at the bottom. Your customer's perception of you is what they see in public. What you share on social media. You're brand is you, not the art you create.
If you make reproducible things, then a logo attached to them becomes more important. The only purpose of a logo is for the customer to know that it's made by you and that it is associated with whatever quality and qualities your brand is associated with. That's really it. Everything else is to make a better product than your competition and get it in front of more people. In other words, live up to the idea you're trying to create for your brand.
Q: What software/tools are your go-to resources?
Lee: Excel. Chrome. Word. Lol. I use Shopify for my platform. Just find stuff that works and learn how to use it.
Great product photography is absolutely positively key if you want to sell online. If you have crappy photos, your customer will just go to a competitor. If you can't do it yourself, you really need to pay someone to do it for you, or don't do it at all. But that has nothing to do with branding.
A great graphics designer is key. I don't do my own graphics, so I have to outsource it. Knowing what the designer can and can't do is important. I currently work with three designers for different things so I can get the final brand image I want.
Q: 2 bits of advice to share with your peers who are struggling with their brand imagery.
Lee: Just pick something and go with it. 1 in the hand is better than trudging through the bush trying to get 2.
Make it fanciful so you can trademark it later.
If you are an artist, you just go out and market yourself. Your branding is easy.
Consistency. You can't make one great product and then sell a shitty one. Your logo needs to be the same and the feel of all your labels/packaging should be the same.
Thank you, Lee
Great information and tips. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences and thoughts with everyone, Lee!