Like people, brands develop and mature. Splurge Skincare developed and matured to the point that it's founder Christine Cunningham didn't believe its original packaging and name communicated its value, so she scraped them to match the name and packaging with the brand's evolution.
“I felt like the products could be brought to another level. There were times, even early on in the business, when we would bring them to different stores and they would say, ‘You have the best scrub I’ve ever tried, but the packaging doesn’t reflect that,’” recalls Cunningham. “I just felt Splurge didn’t fit anymore. I wanted to make it more sophisticated.”
Splurge Skincare has been reimagined as 28 Litsea, a six-item line containing lip balms, body oil and an exfoliant with subtle, upscale containers that speak to its contents. Gone are green labels, clear and white components, and product monikers like Lip Buttah and The Rub. In their place are pale blue and white labels surrounding dark components chosen to protect ingredients.
“Their rebranding was needed, and they did an amazing job with it,” says Kathryn Dickinson, founder of clean beauty retailer Aillea, which carries 28 Litsea. “While the product inside the tube has always delivered high performance, their old branding and naming (e.g., the cheeky Lip Buttah) conveyed more of a kitschy feeling and didn’t necessarily convey the highly effective elegance of their formulas. Now, I think their branding and products are truly aligned.”
“While the product inside the tube has always delivered high performance, their old branding and naming (e.g., the cheeky Lip Buttah) conveyed more of a kitschy feeling and didn’t necessarily convey the highly effective elegance of their formulas. Now, I think their branding and products are truly aligned.”
Cunningham hired graphic designer Rebecca Reitz to put her ideas for a reinvention into action. “We really connected right away. She understood the vision I had,” she says. “I wanted something that was calming, clean and cohesive. The packaging before was all over the place.”
For Cunningham, the hardest part of the renovation was picking a name. She was drawn to litsea, an evergreen tree that yields an essential oil prized for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and stimulating properties, because of its significance to her as a beauty ingredient. “I’ve always loved it. It’s very uplifting, bright and citrusy. It’s very versatile and brings out the best in other ingredients,” says Cunningham. The number 28 honors her late father Dan Berardi, a former teacher and major influence on her whose birthday landed on the 28th.
A middle school counselor by day, Cunningham launched Splurge Skincare with a partner in 2010 as a side project. The partner exited last year, giving Cunningham control and the ability to reinvent the brand. She sought to keep its natural formulas, pricing and positioning as a purveyor of straightforward solutions as she adjusted its look and name. One product, Melted Balm, increased from $10 to $12 with the makeover, but the pricing of the rest of the merchandise remained the same. Product prices range from $7 to $27.
“People that know me well know that I’m pretty shy. I’m an introvert. This whole process and forced me out of my comfort zone to be in front of the brand. I want people to learn about it. I see myself more and more getting out there.”
“From the beginning, it’s been about a simple step that can make people feel good about themselves,” says Cunningham, adding about balancing her career with 28 Litsea, “The job is draining. When I come home, I’m pretty much focusing full-time on the business on nights and weekends, but I love it. It keeps me going. When you have a job that’s very stressful, you kind of need something else. Sure, there are stressful days in the business as well, but it’s different.”
Prior to the unveiling of the rebrand, Cunningham dropped hints on social media about the tweaks that were coming to Splurge Skincare. The goal was to ensure customers weren’t blindsided by the transformation. “I didn’t want to go, ‘Hey, today, I’m totally different.’ I wanted to bring them along with the process,” says Cunningham. “I wanted to get them excited about it as much as I was, and I wanted to be as honest as I could while protecting the name.”
She introduced a single new product, Top Note Wild Citrus Body Oil, with the repackaging, but didn’t bombard customers with a slew of launches because that wouldn’t have been true to Cunningham’s approach to assortment expansion or her personality. The brand’s bestseller is Tinted Petala, a lip balm that provides soft washes of color and boosts moisture. Its first release was a sugar scrub now called Blended With Flowers + Exfoliant For Body.
“I don’t see myself as having a ton of SKUs,” she says. “In general, people that know me well know that I’m pretty shy. I’m an introvert. This whole process and forced me out of my comfort zone to be in front of the brand. I want people to learn about it. I see myself more and more getting out there.”
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