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Inside / Outside Skincare

It’s been called a ‘health revolution’. We’ve all come across it, on a weekly basis – the expanding arena of health brands with ingredients you can eat – and use topically.

Personal care brands are incorporating ever more natural and organic ingredients, which is great - but also pulling stunts with health food ‘inspired’ products like kale cleansers, wheatgrass shower gels and chia seed face oil. While most of them are not proven to have any topical effect, the ‘healthy’ cues seem to be enough to persuade consumers they are worth their, usually high, price tag.

There is one clear, proven trend though: Probiotics, or ‘good bacteria’. Probiotics, integral to healthy gut bacteria have been used for generations to promote intestinal health, but they have only recently made their way in to skincare. Probiotics are claimed to reduce inflammation on a topical level, by stopping the skins reaction to bad bacteria.

It’s not totally revolutionary: using yoghurt as skincare to has been long practiced in some parts of the world, especially in dairy-centric Nordic countries. Now, though, some brands are starting to create new probiotic products for their balancing and hydrating effects. Currently, only one brand – Aurelia - leads the charge. How do you compete in this market, and where does the opportunity lie?

The gap in consumer perceptions between the food we eat and the products you put on your skin is closing fast. Honey or avocado as facemasks, cider vinegar as a toner, cucumber on the eyes, coconut oil as all-over moisturiser… the list is long and growing.

Current probiotic skincare products are not yet using live bacteria – they are using a ‘metabolite’ version. There is an interesting opportunity to develop the technology, the channels and the packaging  - and provide the consumer with safe products that utilise the strength of real live benign bacteria.

So, who will be the first brand to venture in to fresh, live, active probiotic skincare? We’ll meet you in the yoghurt isle to find out… 


Organic Honesty?

The ‘organic’ sector is regaining its healthy lustre - an overall increase of 4% in 2014 to a total spend of £1.86 bn - and still growing. This has been mainly driven by the Lidl/Aldi effect – bringing the prices down to “everyday” levels, within reach of the budget shopper, without getting stuck in the tangled mythology of implicit claims.

Its those implicit claims that have been giving honest marketers a problem – how to make any of them explicit - and build a strong brand? In front of me now is a pot of  “Select Organic Olives” – at £3 for 185g – which are apparently ‘cared for the way nature intended’ and  ‘hand picked by artisan farmers’. Quite apart from the impossibility of handpicking olives and the philosophical challenges of knowing Natures intentions, there is an issue of provenance – apparently from ‘the sun-drenched groves of Greece and Italy’, where ‘real people’ grow ‘our olives’…(produce of EU and Non-EU Agriculture). The kicker is that we are assured by ‘the real olive co.’ that this is ‘real food for real people’. As opposed, of course, to those fake people who eat unreal food.

What is going on here? A claim to be ‘real’ is not a real claim; it does not add value – nor make a good case for marketing, in general. It's the taste – and no nasties – that make people buy it… isn’t that enough?

Not always… a more invidious strategy is the CLAIM in the BRAND NAME route. This is where you recognize you can’t legally make an actual claim, so you build it into the name. This is particularly popular in USA, where “I can’t believe its not Butter” was first invented in 1981. Fast forward 35 years and we have a more modest “Live Real Farms” brand launching an Energy Drink – a ‘milk-based energy drink that doesn’t rely on caffeine or other stimulants”. Disappointingly, it’s not live, has no probiotics, and the energy comes from ‘high levels of carbohydrates’… Otherwise known as sugars.

Energy drinks is a category with even more mystical mythology than organics – it will be interesting to see how that translates when it comes to Europe. In a recent project developing a European ‘natural energy’ drink we decided not to go ‘organic’ despite the rise in volume sales, but focus on tried and tested natural ingredients – beyond simple carbs. Lets see how that runs!



Friday Better Branding Blog

Feeling particularly playful this week, the main topic of conversation over our Thursday lunch was the Barbie doll, prompted by the recent ad that has been making the rounds on social media. The reason for its popularity? Finally giving the Barbie doll, and the Barbie brand, a brand purpose worthy of the attention of a new generation of millennial parents.

The new ad opens with the question: ‘What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything?’ The 5 girls in the ad imagine successful careers, going about their working day, whilst being filmed by hidden cameras, revealing the reactions of adults. It’s a message of empowerment: the Barbie doll is enabling, and encouraging, young girls to dream big, and imagine a future where everything is possible.  But with this ‘new’ brand purpose comes greater brand responsibility, and as of yet, Barbie isn’t living up to this ambitious promise.  

There is a fairly obvious problem here: The product reality doesn’t reflect the brand promise. Sure, alongside the new ad, Mattel will be releasing a new product line of new skin colours, hair colours, face shapes and will finally introduce feet that can walk in flat shoes. However, she still has a waist too small to hold her intestines, and impossible proportions featuring an alien like head – surely not something to aspire to.

But the Barbie brand is more than the Barbie doll, and this is where there is a lot of ground to cover. You can argue that appearance shouldn’t matter – anatomically incorrect bombshell women can be smart too. But even more problematic are the Barbie films, still mainly focused on Barbie’s quest for the perfect dress and boyfriend. The Barbie website, which there really isn’t anything ambitious or aspirational about. This is where the brand promise could, and desperately needs, to be realised – through inspirational, motivating and educational products, across all platforms, that further the brand purpose rather than work against it.

Scientist Barbie with an accompanying chemistry kit? Engineering Barbie with a set of challenging math games? Inspirational Barbie’s online community? Sounds more inspiring than that old Math’s Barbie that came with the slogan ‘Math is Hard’…

The main point is, while the brand’s values are truly evolving in the right direction, it will continue struggling until the products catch up. Luckily, with her new adjustable feet, Barbie can now wear running shoes, so maybe the change will happen faster than we think… SpringSummer14

Freelance Designer Wanted!

Ergo is a brand strategy agency, with 19 years of experience behind us. We are experts in brand innovation, renovation and international brand strategy.

We’re currently on the lookout for a freelance Graphic Designer to join our, on an on-going flexible contract. Ideally, we’d like someone to work from our west London studio for a day or two per week, so this opportunity is ideal for a freelancer who is looking for a bit of stability!

Our ideal candidate would be a versatile, all-round creative, with a good eye for detail. You will have a few years experience, with a solid understanding of design for both print and digital.

We’d love to see a varied portfolio, as the work will include illustration, packaging, branding, layout/publications and design for web. We’d love to see evidence of conceptual, exciting ideas for both big established brands and smaller entrepreneurial clients.

The ideal candidate for this position is a hands-on, positive and energized person, with heaps of creativity and confidence.  We are based in west London, in a lovely studio overlooking the canal.

If you are an experienced freelance designer who is ready to commit for a day or two per week, please send your portfolio and CV to emma@ergo-id.com

Design Effectiveness Award!

Ergo have been shortlisted for the Design Effectiveness Award 2016.

The shortlist of 61 winners have now been announced, and we are delighted to hear we are one of them!

We are looking foward to the awards ceremony on the 11th of February 2016 at Tobacco Dock in London.

More information about the awards can be found at: http://www.dba.org.uk/awards/DEAShortlist2016.asp#.Vi-Y8M6AHlL

The Good Ship Ergo

Here at Ergo, we have a lot of love for all things Scandinavian, and so last week, we found ourselves on a sailing boat in the Gothenburg archipelago for a few days of sailing, eating, swimming and… competing?

The Swedish west coast is spectacular, and we were sailing along rocky, bare islands with small idyllic villages spread out across them. One of the highlights (apart from seeing Beo* on the shelf in the supermarket, and trying the vast selection of innovative dairy products) was, completely by accident, sailing in the midst of the Tjörn Runt sailing race.

It was amazing to see the struggle of the boats to overtake each other, reacting to changes in the wind, the immediate conditions and what the competition was doing at all times. In the most narrow passage, when the boats were tacking to move forward and the competition was at it’s stiffest, we could study the movements without having to tack with the other boats. From our position on the Good Ship Ergo, we had the advantage of seeing the bigger picture, being in the eye of the storm, but able to keep our cool and planning our next move. It’s the kind of position we take on most of our projects, so we felt right at home using our lateral thinking and innovation to come out the other side ahead of the competition, and on to calmer waters.


It was an unforgettable trip, and the sailing, along with walks along the cliffs, swimming in the somewhat chilly, but beautifully jellyfish free water, eating incredible seafood and dancing to Abba, made for the perfect team experience.

We can’t wait to go back to Swedish shores, either for more competitive sailing, or exploring innovation on dry land with new exciting clients. 


Här på Ergo älskar vi all som har med Skandinavien att göra. Därför fann vi oss förra veckan ombord på en segelbåt I Göteborgs norra skärgård, för ett par dagar av segling, middagar, bad och… tävling?

Den Svenska västkusten är spektakulär, och vi seglade längs med klippiga öar, med små idylliska samhällen spridda över det steniga landskapet. En av höjdpunkterna (förutom att se Beo* på hyllorna i mataffären, och att få testa alla innovativa mjölkprodukter) var, att helt av en slump, få segla mitt i tävlingsracet Tjörn Runt.

Det var otroligt spännande att se båtarna överta varandra, hur de reagerade på förändringar i vinden, omgivningarna, och deras motståndares rörelser. I ett av de smalaste sunden, när tävlingen var som tuffast och båtarna behövde kryssa for att ta sig framåt, kunde vi studera de andra båtarna utan att behöva kryssa med dem. Mitt i tävlingen kunde vi observera och planera vårt nästa drag. Vi hade ett övertag; att kunna se loppet i sin helhet. Vi var i stormens öga, men kunde hålla oss lugna. Det är samma position vi är vana vid på vara projekt, så vi kände oss hemma i att kunna tanka lateralt och använda vart innovativa tänkande for att komma ur loppet, före fältet, och vidare till lugnare vatten.

Det var en oförglömlig upplevelse, och seglingen tillsammans med promenader på Käringön, bad i det uppfriskande vattnet, fantastisk mat och dans till Abba, gjorde det till en perfekt teamresa.

Vi längtar redan efter att åka tillbaka, både for mer segling, och fler spännande samarbeten på torra land. 

Soft & Gentle Skin Science

We recently helped Soft & Gentle create an identity for their new expert deodorant range, Skin Science.


The Soft & Gentle Skin Science range has just been launched to the trade, and we are very excited to see the range being rolled out. Having worked with us on the re-launch of Soft & Gentle, Godrej approached us to develop the Soft & Gentle brand beyond the current ‘fragrance choice’ remit. They needed a concept, brand and design system that could accommodate new products with distinct benefits.

We built a sub-brand system for Soft & Gentle. The ‘Skin Science’ range has a minimalist design on a silver pack, communicating a sophisticated, modern vibe and efficacious image, raising the profile of the brand without disrupting the original range architecture.

There are 3 variants in the new range, each with specialist functions, to meet different consumer needs.

Soft & Gentle Skin Science is now available from all major pharmacies

Congratulations Speedo!

We want to say congratulations to our client Speedo, on the successful and well-received launch of the new Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer X. UK Olympic silver medalist Michael Jamieson hosted the launch in London, and accredited the new suit to making him feel ‘fast and powerful’.

The LZR Racer X is developed with speed and world-class performance in mind, and is engineered to help swimmers feel their fastest. As Speedo puts it:

‘There is a significant psychological benefit for every athlete in feeling fast, as well as actually being fast.’

The whole range looks great, and we’re sure the new Fastskin LZR Racer X will be a huge success for Speedo.

Read the full press release here, and have a look at the LZR Racer X range over at Speedostore.




After a very busy first week here at Ergo, I finally have some time to sit down and introduce myself. My name is Emma, and I’m the newest addition to the team. I will be managing the studio, make sure it's all running smoothly, and help the brilliant team with whatever they may need!

I’m from a creative background, having dabbled in photography, design and creative writing before joining Ergo. When not working away in the studio, you’ll most likely find me eating food, talking about food or reading about food. To balance it out, I do a fair bit of running around South London, and yoga with my cat.

I’ve joined Ergo at a very exciting time, with some great projects in the making. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in, and hopefully won’t bore the team with too much chatter about my breakfast or perfectly ripe avocados.

Now, a cup of tea and a brainstorm!


16 ways to change the world…

An attention-grabbing Royal Institute conference in London last week. Yes, we are entering another era of exponential science-driven change: the curve keeps going up and up, as the more we discover, the more we can discover. But are all changes for the better?


Some great stuff, some fun stuff and some scary stuff:

The great: The future of Human Health is looking rosy on a number of fronts:

- Personal nutrition management: combining of all your unique variables (incl. your very own microbial makeup) means personal, accurate predictions to food responses. Pizza and ice-cream could be good for you (but not for you...)!

-The astonishing world of nanotechnology... Things behave differently at nano-level, and it seems we will be able to tackle illness and dysfunction at cell level.

- Mobile Health, (though not well communicated here) will contribute to this rosy future for each of us...who can access and afford it.

The fun: Future toys - Flying cars, Hybrid Air Vehicles, Smart Robots are in the air. City planning and predictions involving autopilot cars gave us visions of children playing safely in car-free streets. Great optimism. This recalls the story of an earlier team of scientists (from The Royal Institute?), in early Victorian times, who modeled the future of London and its infrastructural needs. After months of deliberation, they concluded that any cities maximum size was 2.5 million inhabitants. The crucial limiting factor? Transport emissions, in the form of horse manure.

The scary: Geo-engineering. Has human technology screwed up the environment? Let us fix it...with more technology! The side effects of science 'changing the world' have not always been benign (Atom splitting, plastics, DDT, CFC)... Who knows what the fallout may be from 'intervening' with the environment on a planetary scale? As Danish scientist Niels Bohr memorably said, "Prediction is very difficult, especially if its about the future".

Beyond the honeymoon excitement, what are the potential dangers of the new super-material, graphene? And the threats from cyber security? Even the minefield of nanotechnology? Scientists by their very training tend to think and work within their own tight constructs. Maybe, like any good commercial innovation projects, they should build teams with multiple perspectives. Include the projective, the empathetic, lateral and poetic thinkers, the multi-visionaries.

On that note, we look forward optimistically to a healthy 2015!

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