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EOS founders Jonathan Teller and Sanjiv Mehra changed the face of lip balm when they discovered that women bought 80 percent of all lip care products, but were not uniquely catered to.
"We looked at the lip care market, lip balm specifically, and saw that the products were all the same," says Teller. "Despite the fact that 80 percent of lip balm was purchased by women, there was really nothing designed specifically for women."
Teller and Mehra say that their patience and their confidence in their brand of egg-shaped lip balm inspired copycats and helped them turn EOS into a household name.
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From ignoring the experts to recognizing investment opportunities, here are a few of the lessons that Mehra and Teller learned along the way.
Don’t always trust the experts
“Don't listen to the professionals, because they don't know everything,” says Teller. “I think one of the challenges with consumer products is that everyone is a consumer. And people react in their own ways. And so an individual's reaction isn't necessarily more or less meaningful than someone else's reaction.”
Think bigger than investors
“We believed we would be successful because we were just self-confident,” recalls Mehra. “As we got along, we were a little concerned, saying, ‘If we want to do this at the scale that we'd like to be, to compete in this very big and established marketplace, possibly shouldn't we go get money?’ And we went to investors.”
“Well, investors said, ‘No,’" says Teller. “We got more 'no's than we envisioned we ever would. And it was, for us, an interesting process because we had to look within. And if all these professional investors were saying no, did we still believe in what we were doing? And we fundamentally did.”
Invest money in new and influencer marketing techniques
“The old methods of marketing and communication are less effective than they used to be before,” says Mehra. “What is absolutely true is that word of mouth is significantly more effective than it ever was. People jumping product to product or jumping on whatever is new because that's the thing everybody's buying, has become far more prevalent.”
“Consumers have a lot more power,” says Teller. “And so, marketing in the context of spending a lot of money on a traditional advertising campaign and basically broadcasting to the consumers what they should like and what they should buy, well, clearly, that doesn't work like it used to.”
“Well before anybody else even thought of these things, what we did was we said to ourselves, ‘Who are influencers?’” says Mehra.
Mehra and Teller built their influencer marketing strategy around authenticity.
“It's got to be an authentic relationship between the influencer and our product because we know that consumers are looking for that,” says Teller. “It's about finding authenticity in the context of these relationships, so their use of the product is actually reflective of what they do in everyday life, and less about whether they're doing something that's more purely a marketing related event.”
Choose your distributors wisely
“We had distributors from 140 countries reach out to us and we said no to all of them,” says Mehra. “And it has worked well for us because, as we now go into market, we don't have to recreate what was done and we can start from the beginning and we can do it the right way.”
“Jonathan and I are actually quite patient. And we tell ourselves, ‘It's not going to happen in a hurry. And if we want to build a great brand, it does take time.’”
Be open with your partner
“We have two principles we work on,” says Mehra. “The first one being if one of us disagrees on something, we simply just don't do it. We both agree on everything we need to do and that's when we know that we're aligned. And the other part is we are very open with each other. There are no secrets among the two of us. We don't carve up spaces that this is mine and this is yours. Together, this is ours.”