There are brands and there are businesses. All brands have a business component, but not all businesses are a brand. Branding is more than a logo or a color scheme; it’s what helps your current and potential customers connect with your business. It’s the story that you tell, the personality that you convey—it’s the substance behind the beauty.
The best brands are ones that make us feel something. I don’t necessarily mean that in a warm and fuzzy sense, I mean that in a personal sense. Really good brands are the ones that you can picture as a person, a person that you want to hang out with.
Evo is one of those people.
I like to imagine evo as someone who looks like Sebastian Tellier, with the temperament of a Tannenbaum, and Mitch Hedburg’s sense of humor. The fact that they make great products with a seriously devoted cult following is almost beside the point for me. As a brand, evo is fascinating, and as a niche brand, they are a near perfect example.
This brand will not appeal to everyone. Those without a sense of humor or who take themselves too seriously will not be able to see past the Napoleon Dynamite-style videos, tongue-in-cheek package copy or completely random Instagram photos of Grecian statues spray painted pink, and they are not meant to.
Evo is geared towards the misfit-of-taste; those who don’t quite fit in and aren’t interested at all in doing so. With both feet firmly planted on the wrong side of normal, evo is a little more than a hair care company. It is the brainchild of a couple of weirdos who set out to save ordinary humans from themselves.
My Experience with evo
Garth Gauvin is a rather tall gentleman and not at all what I expected. I have followed this particular brand from my very first days in the beauty industry. In fact, it is a running joke around here that evo is my “white whale,” or a brand that I have been chasing forever.
It’s gone on for so long now that I’ve upped the ante by pledging that if I ever finally catch it, I will get a tattoo of a white whale on my arm—dedication to the cause, my friends. Having been afforded the chance to meet the mind behind the madness was something that I had looked forward to for a long time.
That chance presented itself last year dusting the Cosmoprof Show in Las Vegas, and in typical Australian fashion, we are only just now—about a year later—getting around to telling the story of evo.
But of course, it’s happening at exactly the right time, because a weird knack for excellent timing seems to be something that people are just born with in the land down under. In any case, Mr. Gauvin was tall, quiet and seemingly totally normal. Not at all what I was expecting.
He does everything a little bit slowly, in a sort of languid style, and thinks for a moment before he speaks. We talked for a bit about the brand as a whole and what they had been up to in recent times and new developments and all of those sorts of things that you talk about in meetings at beauty shows.
But the real meat and potatoes came later via email when I got the full story. What follows is the story and philosophy of a renegade brand, from the man who created it.
How evo Began
“My family has a hairdressing heritage. My mum’s a hairdresser, my parents were salon owners before they started our family-owned and run distributorship, called Haircare Australia. So as you can imagine, we love the hairdressing industry.
I actually registered the trademark for evo in 1999 while I was in my final year at university. I then joined Haircare Australia, began working on evo with my father before launching it in the year 2000. The original evo range emulated all the other products on the market, but over the following four years I worked with and learned from an incredible hairdresser/trichologist as we built certified organic brands together.
I guess I did an ‘apprenticeship’ of sorts: we created a kids brand called eco.kid, a professional brand called colour.pro, built an ecocert certified-factory with our bare hands, formulated and made all the products ourselves. I learned so much about chemistry, certified organics, the hairdressing industry and this changed my perspective.
I became frustrated with traditional hair product marketing messages and the willingness of people to accept them. I like to say I ‘unplugged from the matrix.’ After my experience, I knew I wanted to change the industry. Enough was enough. I wanted to make the best performing yet honest product range that made people think about the marketing gimmicks used to sell to them.
Luckily during this period I surrounded myself with the right people (graphic designers, my family, great staff, and hairdressers) and evo was born. Today, evo is sold, loved and respected in 30 countries and can be found wherever good hairdressers are stocked.
The brand in its current form was born in 2004. The brand personality wasn’t decided upon; it was created in the way an artist creates a piece of art (did I actually just say that…sorry that sounds a bit wanky). It is a product of young, frustrated creatives wanting to challenge the status quo to create change.
It is the result of us throwing our ideas into a melting pot and being trusted and given the resources to create what we wanted. To me, evo is a piece of art. It just came out of us because we had something to say, and we didn’t have a choice, we just had to say it.
What Evo Means
The concept was to create a unique product range and not go down the well-worn marketing path. To simply be honest. The evo mission is to challenge the status quo and change the hairdressing industry.
We want to make evo the salon brand of choice by delivering innovative, exceptional quality products and empowering people to make informed choices by educating them, inspiring them to think and uncover the truth.
In the beginning, we were hoping to offer something different—get people thinking about the over-marketed ingredients; imaginary technology, myths, and gimmicks. We make evo for people who share our idea—seeking the truth, beauty, and justice. Innovators who ‘think different.’ A new class of influencers, independent thinkers, and doers that are not afraid to stand out and embrace authenticity.
Who Evo Is
As a personality, evo is a genuine mate with real integrity. He couldn’t look you in the eye and lie to you, even if he tried. He is a man with a plan. He knows where he is going and is on a mission to get there, yet he’s down to earth, a team player that listens to everyone and is always there to lend a helping hand.
He is a real do-er that rolls his sleeves up (leading by example to get a job done) and nothing is too hard for him. He has a huge personality and knows how to have a good time. He is a unique unit (a real individual) that likes to do things differently…but always for the right reasons.
What Evo Does
Evo was created to inspire and connect with hairdressers globally. It wasn’t built to be the biggest or make the most. It was developed to lead and ultimately change the industry. This means we didn’t really care about limiting our potential clientele, which is probably why evo is unique.
But along the way we have found that everyone has a sense of humour (well almost everyone) and people from all walks of life relate to the personality of our products. In retrospect, the pros are that as long as we stay true to our brand values we will speak to people, have die-hard brand advocates, loyal customers and have few competitors that can replicate what we do.
The cons are that evo has high standards which can’t be compromised, and because evo is unique, it may not be understood fully by all cultures or appeal to the broadest customer demographic.
The basic philosophy behind the brand is to always do things differently to the others and challenge the status quo (innovate), to tell the truth, and fight for what’s right for the common good (have integrity), to make things easier to understand (simplify) and to be serious about our profession without taking ourselves too seriously (be playful).
How Evo Happens
When choosing products to make, we ask ourselves some basic questions to ensure we are on brand. We have to be innovative and do things differently. We have to be best in class, we have to give value and we can’t follow trends. Products typically take 12-18 months from conception to realisation depending on the complexity of the project.
The packaging is chosen to be stylist friendly, to maintain our minimal, clean aesthetic and to be the most sustainable choice possible. The packaging copy is developed to speak to people that use the product, to get people to laugh, but more importantly, to think about the traditional, stereotypical marketing of hair and beauty products.
Its design was influenced by the brief to create unique, minimalist packaging with a true personality that evoked people’s interest, would not date and would look good in any bathroom. Evo packaging is the result of four young, creatively-minded, Australian guys being given free reign, and as a result, it is uniquely Australian. It has a casual, fun, relaxed style and loads of personality.
Who Is Behind It All
Our team shares the same motto: we are serious about our profession without taking ourselves too seriously. This means we are professional in our approach. We are driven to do the best that we can in everything that we do in order to achieve our mission, but we always have a great time along the way and make sure that those who join us on our journey do the same.
When hiring, we look for team players that have integrity (this is the most important thing), initiative, self-belief, determination, and of course a great sense of humour. We like people that work hard and play hard (enjoy celebrating the wins).
Where Evo Is Going
The brand will evolve, but it will always strive to ‘save ordinary humans from themselves.’ One of the core values of evo is ‘simplification’; less is more. We believe that the prescription of products by hairdressers has become over-complicated because there are too many products out there that do the same thing. We aren’t trying to sell hairdressers products for the sake of it to sit on their shelves and gather dust.
So, evo isn’t launching a plethora of new products. We launch products when we see our salons having a need for them. Evo is particularly loved by stylists for our primary styling line, so we will continue to add to it as stylists’ needs change. We are also focusing on professional products for in-salon use to help salons build prescriptive services.
We believe salon services are a key area for salon owners to focus on as internet sales and diversion of hair products continue to grow.
The only way to maintain our brand/culture is to first always ask ourselves why we do something before we do it and live the brand. Secondly, we need to make sure how we do things reflects our core values of integrity, innovation, simplicity, and playfulness. Finally, we need to build an evo team that shares our brand values, believes in evo and the mission we are trying to achieve.
Thoughts on the evo story & brand
There is a lot of noise out there, when it comes to beauty products. Each one clamors to convince us that they perform miracles in no time at all and will make you piles and piles of money just by sitting prettily on your retail or backbar shelves. While it’s great to examine various brands as business/marketing/branding examples—something that we do frequently— at the end of the day, what really matters is, does the brand in questions fit with its target customer.
In order to truly connect with the right audience, a brand should be able to effectively answer the following questions :
- Does my product perform to my target customer’s standards?
- Does the packaging fit my target customer’s decor?
- Does the brand message jive with my target customer’s mission?
- Will my target customer connect with this brand, on a real level? Or to think of it another way, if our brands were people, would we be friends?
Chances are, you spend a lot of time and money on branding and marketing. Before you spend anymore, consider how you feel about your brand. If you don’t truly connect with your brand, chances are your customers won’t either. Remember, if you’ve built your brand properly, you are the porch light attracting the moths, which is to say, you’ve drawn a roster of like-minded customers to your products and services. Whatever you truly love, so too shall they. Plus, as a sales tactic, it helps immeasurably to truly believe in the product and/or that you are hawking.
I could never sell ice to an Eskimo (I hate the cold), but I would have lines around the block for fro-yo. There is a very long and complicated backstory that relates to thus but for our immediate purposes, let’s just say that in the end, if you feel passionate about a brand, that is to say, when you build a brand that you are truly passionate about—love it, learn from it, harness it and then release it back into the wild so that it may be shared with the rest of us weirdos all searching for white whales of our own.
To learn more about evo’s products and philosophy, visit their website, HERE.