The universally-recognized rainbow orbs that have been moisturizing lips around the world for the last decade are a ubiquitous symbol of the most common step in any beauty routine. eos lip balm has, in just ten short years, stormed an oversaturated market and become the top pick for beauty bloggers, experts and millennials alike. Heavy research and sharp marketing gave eos lip balm an edge when they launched their U.S. product in 2007, and the company has been growing globally since. Keen strategy played an important role in the little egg’s rise to be the bestselling lip balm in the country in such a short amount of time – surpassing tried and true grandfather brands like Chapstick and Blistex in the process. Let’s take a look at a few factors in play in eos’ quick, calculated rise to the top.
Early Market Research eos Products – the brand over the famous lip balms and an acronym for Evolution of Smooth – took what the co-founders Jonathon Teller and Sajiv Mehra called a “measured” approach to starting the company and planning for new growth. According to Teller and Mehra, the brand was always meant to be both global and scalable in its scope – multinational but manageable, able to change and flow with each market’s interest. Before the product’s launch in the United States, the pair put their combined energy into finding out exactly what the consumer wanted, needed, and didn’t have available in the current market. They learned that lip balm had been treated solely as a unisex commodity for the last hundred years, even though research pointed to it being a product much more predominantly used by women. “We looked at the lip care market, lip balm specifically, and saw that the products were all the same,” Teller told NBC News, “despite the fact that 80 percent of lip balm was purchased by women, there was really nothing designed specifically for women.” Teller chalked this up to his competitors “being lazy,” and saw the hole in the market as the perfect opportunity.
The brand cultivated what they called a “universal appeal” via countless hours of preliminary research. By tapping into focus groups and spending time with real women, the team started devising together what they imagined could be a universally-loved lip balm product. Initial research showed that women around the world had a few similar complaints with regular, old lip balm sticks: first, the inability to find lip balm containers inside of their bags – and in the rare moment the woman can successfully procure a lip product in the bottomless pits, it could be any one of a number of different products in the bag, all meant for a range of different uses. The design of eos lip balm quickly became the major focus, setting the brand apart from the other sticks on the market. Teller and Mehra went to great lengths to perfect the packaging, having sculptors work clay models until they landed on the now-iconic sphere container. In another collective piece of consumer feedback, ladies also reported that they would like to have the quality and ease of access in a jar-packaged product without the need to dip their fingers into the product – a quality balm that can be layered on without the risk of introducing contamination. The unique cylinder created to house the eos lip balm really made this feat come to life – the orb face of the silky balm can cover both lips in one swipe without ever having to touch the product. In addition to these, Teller and Mehra wanted to make a new product that was all-in-one pretty, exciting and fun to use.
Specifically designed to satisfy through all of the senses, eos lip balms built a product that covered all of the bases – the bright, colorful orbs are playful, the outer plastic packaging is a soft and velvety to the touch, and the multitude of different flavors inspire memories of favorite flavors and summertimes past, with fresh and decadent scents ranging from Acai to Hibiscus Peach to Honeysuckle – familiar, tasty, fragrant and soft. “The way we’re looking at it is to make our routines less routine,” Teller said of the final product. “Something that is well designed, that is beautifully designed, can make the same experience much better.” Even though it’s “just a lip balm,” eos really wanted to elevate the process of using and wearing the product daily, and infused luxury into every little detail – a little treat for the senses every single time it’s applied.
Early research also showed that people looked to their lip products feel and smell great, but to be also have beneficial and nourishing ingredients. With “natural” being the key word that preliminary marketing kept producing as the most important factor, eos took this notion and ran. The company made it their mission to use organic ingredients like jojoba oil and shea butter, and eos lip balm is certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. eos keeps away from preservatives and parabens while adding skin-saving nutrients like vitamin C and E, which provide antioxidants and prevent the visible signs of aging like sagging, wrinkles and age spots. The sunscreen versions use SPF, making them less all-natural as the original formulas, but still free of free of PABA, petrolatum, phthalates, gluten and parabens. The inactive ingredients boast 100% natural flavors.
eos Marketing Vice President Sherry Jhawar shared with Racked.com her belief that the company’s prosperity and the enormous success of their signature lip balm is the result of competitive pricing and fun, cheeky packaging: “The round idea came from consumer research—hearing women talk about how they could never find their lip balms in their bags or complaining about lip balm tubes rolling off a dresser. So, we decided to make something that was easier to find and the roundness naturally flowed from thinking about shapes that women appreciate instinctively,” said Jhawar. “We’ve always believed that most mass companies didn’t work as hard on packaging as they did on formulations. [eos is] a great product—functionally useful, organic, easy to find in your bag, moisturizing, efficient, two lips in one swipe, no need to use fingers—and it’s delightful: great flavors, gorgeous colors, cute shape and great texture and feel.” Throughout the process of creating and refining their flagship product, eos lip balm focused solely on the user experience. Rather than just competing in the market space, eos saw past the status quo and dreamed big. With the target customer in mind, eos quickly received positive feedback in preliminary testing and picked up the tagline, “The lip balm that makes you smile.”
Strategic Growth It wasn’t enough to just pioneer a new product into the space, the brand had to think strategically and act fast in an oversaturate market. For a time, eos struck out in initial sales pitches – male buyers didn’t quite understand the product, which Mehra and Teller have said was natural, as the balm was more created with a female in mind. It wasn’t until a chance meeting with a female buyer at Walgreens that the pair had their first big break. Walgreens loved the colorful pods, and a successful launch at the drugstore led to shelf space in big box stores Walmart and Target. To compete with the time-honored brands in the marketplace, the founders knew they would have to scale quickly and carefully.
Within the first 18 months of launch, eos received requests from more than 100 countries to sell the signature lip balm. “Early on, we heard from more countries than I knew existed from people asking for distributorships and being able to sell our products,” Teller told Racked. “And, by and large, we said no … we knew that if we wanted to build a sustainable business, we needed to be thoughtful.” Making the decision to forego outside investment, the pair used their own funds and startup capital and built the manufacturing in-house, playing big risk moves and garnering big reward for the young company. To this day, the brand has received no outside investment. With the decision to invest in their own machinery at this early stage, eos paved the road to success in creating an automated process that was key to filling the demands of new accounts.
The co-founders attribute early success to the mindfulness practiced in sustainable growth. Teller and Mehra knew that each new market would need an additional team, knowledgeable about the country and its practices. eos adapted its lip balm to each local market while remaining selective about their retail partners. “For example, in the U.K.,” Teller recounted in an interview with Entrepreneur, “we delayed our launch for almost a year because we wanted to make sure that we found the right people to come in and help us run the business.” Walmart started carrying eos lip balm across countries with no other deals in place, and the company learned to ride the wave. Sales in Mexico shot through the roof from Walmart sales alone, and before the group had even made direct retail effort in the country, demand for the product was so high that further expansion was an inevitable next step without the risk. Similarly, the brand had a huge spike in Chinese demand after a product placement deal with the Warner Bros. hit TV show Gossip Girl. Before the brand launched in the Chinese market, product deals with American celebrities in TV and music catapulted eos lip balm into a globally desired brand.
New Medium Marketing The product that looks, feels, tastes and smells so wonderful caught on like wildfire in the age of social media. Early initiatives put strategic partnerships and influencer marketing in line to take precedence over traditional advertising. While eos dipped its toes into a couple standard avenues – fruity ads in fashion magazines and a television advertisement – the brand has focused most of its efforts on new mediums, proving to be particularly fond of lucrative influencer marketing campaigns and product placement in pop music videos.
Miley Cyrus was the first star to make the yummy orbs especially famous, displaying a range of flavors and colors in her mega-hit “We Can’t Stop” in 2013 and slathering on the balm like she just couldn’t stop. Jennifer Lopez also lent her face to the brand, seductively using eos lip balm in her “Booty” video from 2014 with Iggy Azalea; and just last year, eos introduced an alternative formula to its range of classic lip balms with the premiere of a sleeker, rounder, transparent ball called eos Crystal, debuted in Cardi B’s “Bartier Cardi” video. As the pop star smacked on the crystal ball in the backseat of her Lyft, fans around the world flocked to their local drugstores to purchase the hot new version of a beloved product. Jhawar says the company loves music and has just found influencer marketing through music a fun niche for all involved.
Millennials are finding new ways to shop and review new beauty products, and YouTube, beauty bloggers and Instagram reign. Kim K, Britney, Christina, Demi and dozens of other celebs have been seen touting the classic balm in celebrity spreads while famous beauty bloggers and influencers tote the orbs around Instagram. Safe to say, social media users around the world have taken notice. While appearing in hit music videos, eos was also a sponsor for Demi Lovato’s world tour and crowned Taylor Swift as its Asian spokesperson – they are the “largest advertiser in [their] category,” according to Jonathon Teller.
Teller has explained that consumers don’t shop like they used to, and traditional forms of advertising are changing fast. Consumers have much more power and range of options than in the past, and brands must work to keep up. In imagining “authenticity in the context of these [influencer] relationships,” eos matches the product with the person – both the influencer and the consumer. Real use of the product is reflective of everyday life with an everyday product, and the brand’s use of celebrity relationships has been one to watch in millennial marketing strategy. Additionally, eos has sought partnerships with designers like Keds, Rachel Roy and Disney for limited-edition collections that sell-out FAST. Disney eos were even reportedly showing up on eBay for hundreds of dollars after they sold out.
eos has a noteworthy social media presence too, with over 6.6 million Facebook likes, 349k Twitter followers and 2m follows on Instagram, where a sprinkle-clad photo of the strawberry sorbet flavored pod can garner over 70,000 new likes. The brand’s rainbow-hued packaging perfectly fits with the Instagram medium, the pods taking on dreamy scenes with flowers, macarons, fruits and everything else colorful under the sun. The bright aesthetic has remained a constant throughout the brand’s identity, further cementing the product as an unmistakable, recognizable staple in the beauty aisle.
The Next Generation The last 10 years of research, strategy and marketing have certainly paid off. From startup to household name, eos has carved its spot among the world’s most reached-for lip balms. Notoriously quiet about their earnings, Kline Research reported in 2016 that eos singlehandedly drove growth in the oral care category, selling over 1 million units in a market projected to increase steadily to $2 billion by 2020, driven by demand for natural and organic products, which luckily, is eos’ specialty.
With all of their continued success, eos continues to create new and innovative products to add to their smooth lineup. 2016 saw the launch of a new shimmer bomb – a tinted balm that was a direct product born of consumer inquiry. A year later, the company branched into a few skincare products, most notably a shaving cream that has been receiving rave reviews for its detailed research, smart marketing and overall great quality. Like its lip products, eos’ shaving cream was designed for women, in beautiful, bright, ergonomic plastic packaging (because metal shaving cans leave rust rings in bathtubs), and a creamy formula that can be used wet or dry.
Another quiet launch this year was the full-range facial skincare line inspired by the qualities of water, the eos Aqua Collection – “a collection of products with nutrient-rich seaweed – one of nature’s most versatile ingredients – to hydrate, smooth, and soften skin.” With a short list of luxurious products like the Hydrating Skin Prep (a rich toner, serum, moisturizer, and primer) and a Purifying Clay Mask, eos is stepping outside its normal price point and looking beyond the lips to try its hand at a few elevated offerings that look just as delightful as their famous, playful balms. In the small collection, eos is writing the next chapter in their brand’s story and are sure to find success if they continue the path of quality offerings paired with capable influence. The Aqua Collection rounds out with a few products that keep brand recognition alive and offer elevated additions to the classic eos lip balm: a sugarbased Exfoliating Lip Scrub, the overnight Deep Hydration Lip Mask, and the color-changing Dynamic Lip Gloss. As always, eos boasts products free of parabens, phathalates, mineral oils, petrolatum or formaldehyde to give lips and skin the most natural, soft pamper – bottling the look and feel of the word “smooth,” their brand identity and the adjective that has catapulted eos to lead an industry.