Handmade-Soap Company Practices Truth In Branding

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Rocky Mountain Soap Company, Canmore

In June, Katrina Birch and her husband Cameron Baty, the owners of Rocky Mountain Soap Company, realized that there was a flaw with their all-natural line of SPF 30 sunscreen. When exposed to heat, the ingredients in the sunscreen could separate, resulting in inconsistent protection from sun exposure. The couple acted fast, issuing a recall and pulling the product from store shelves immediately. That honesty – admitting to a problem with the product and acting quickly to correct it – is integral to the company’s brand, according to Birch. “With social media these days, people can really dig into your company. If they find something they don’t like, they’ll shop elsewhere,” she says. “You need to be honest to build trust.”

It’s not the first time Rocky Mountain Soap has pulled a product, either. In 2006, shortly after deciding to make all of its products out of ingredients it considers natural, the company discontinued its popular line of vanilla-scented soap, after discovering that it didn’t meet its new standards: it was only 99.6 per cent natural.

Birch and Baty bought Rocky Mountain Soap Company in 2000, and later decided to brand it as a producer of 100 per cent natural beauty products. Since then, the company has launched a series of retail stores across Western Canada, expanded from soap into other bath and skin-care products, and attracted a loyal following of health-conscious consumers.

Rocky Mountain’s dedication to transparency has been a key part of retaining those customers, who know the company takes its promise to avoid synthetic or environmentally irresponsible ingredients seriously. The full lists of ingredients for all of its products are posted online, complete with plain
English explanations of scientific-sounding components, like “abies sibirica (fir needle) essential oil” and “organic butyrospermum parkii (shea butter).” Because the company has been diligent about removing products that aren’t adequately natural, customers can be sure that what’s on the label is exactly what they’re getting.

For those who aren’t swayed by the promise of all-natural skin-care products, Rocky Mountain Soap has another strategy, and that’s to give it away for free. “We noticed that when we gave away samples, people came back and wanted to shop with us,” says Baty. To get its free products into as many hands as possible, the company distributes soaps to Albertan hotels. It’s an effective strategy, too. A recent review on its Facebook page, from an oilfield worker named Clayton Desjardins, reads in part, “I wasn’t really a soap guy, until I first tried Rocky Mountain Soap Company soap at a hotel in Banff this winter.”

The same goes for the company’s retail stores, where discounts are rare, but the samples are plentiful. “We think that things should be either free or full price,” says Baty. “We don’t want to get into the discounting game. If we want a customer to try something, we’ll just give it to them.” In July, just before launching its new line of face polishes, the company announced it would give free samples of the new product to anyone who came into the store.
The company’s marketing and branding have clearly paid off. The company’s revenue is now more than $7.8 million, up from $90,000 when Birch and Baty bought it, and it has grown from one retail location to eight.

Parting Advice

    • Find your inner you Always consider your brand when making marketing decisions. Find what makes your company unique and constantly maintain that identity. Rocky Mountain’s brand revolves around its high-quality, all-natural products. Its social media accounts reflect those values, with posts about common chemicals to avoid and photos of wildlife.
    • Own your errors Honesty isn’t just a virtue; it’s an imperative. If you make a mistake, consumers will notice, and in the Internet age, word can spread like wildfire. Owning your errors lets you guide the conversation, and can even make customers trust your brand more than if you hadn’t messed up.

Alberta added 81,800 jobs last year. Collectively, the other provinces lost 10,000

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