Welly, the millennial-aimed first-aid brand, is launching a line of remedies and supplements in Target. With products aimed at treating pain and fever, cough and cold, digestive, sleep and allergy symptoms, it's got effective medicine, fewer additives and dyes and -- most importantly -- adorable packaging. Co-founder Eric Ryan, co-founder of Method soap (now owned by SC Johnson) and Olly vitamins (scooped up by Unilever), tells Marketing Daily about the debut.
Marketing Daily: Welly has been selling its fun first-aid kits in Target for a few years now. Why the transition to remedies?
Eric Ryan: Our goal is to become a health and wellness brand for millennials and their families. And you can see a little pattern in the type of businesses I start. I try to find categories that are unnecessarily complicated. Then I try to simplify them and make a better experience.
So Method reinvented home care, and Olly reinvented vitamins. With Welly, we started in bandages because it's one of the few areas of healthcare you wear. There's a design element. So that was our entry into building a healthcare platform. And then it took some time to get the remedies going.
Marketing Daily: What do you think is wrong with the category?
Ryan: Traditional brands have over-segmented themselves. There are a lot of unnecessary ingredients, and they are hard to understand -- particularly when you don't feel well. We wanted to get the design right, so the efficacy comes through, stripping out the dyes and making it easy to understand.
Marketing Daily: Consumers buy OTC remedies from giant drug companies like Johnson & Johnson. How challenging was it to get going?
Ryan: We thought it would be difficult, and it turned out to be even harder than we expected. Most manufacturing companies work only with large drug companies or private labels. There are not a lot of start-ups trying to break in. It took a while to find the right partners.
Marketing Daily: The marketing will be all on social, using videos like this when they are online. How are you hoping consumers will experience these products in the aisles of Target?
Ryan: We want them to seem friendly and almost as if they've come over from the beauty aisle. We want it to feel enchanting. And over time, we hope you rebuild your medicine cabinet with Welly.
Marketing Daily: Products are also available direct to consumers at your site. Can you explain the benefit of launching via Target?
Ryan: I think the Target end cap is the most valuable real estate in America for launching a new brand. It's the best way to get attention and drive trial.
Marketing Daily: One of these new products is for sleep; some are supplements. Do they compete with Olly?
Ryan: Yes, there is some overlap. Sleep has just become such a juggernaut of a category. What's different is that we're offering both a drug and a drug-free way. We're trying to reflect true consumer behavior -- people want to combine medicine with a wellness product. It's the same as taking an immunity booster combined with a cough-and-cold medication. We're trying to bring these together instead of making you walk up and down different aisles.
Marketing Daily: The bandages are, at least theoretically, aimed at kids. Will there be pediatric formulations of these medicines?
Ryan: It's not hard to see where we're going with this. We don't have anything to announce now, but it's always easier to move from being an adult brand to being a kids' brand than the other way around. We want to start earning trust and delivering a great experience for parents.
Marketing Daily: You've got lots of experience with disruptive brands. Any thoughts on the current struggles in the D2C world? Venture funding is evaporating. IPOs are flopping.
Ryan: I've always believed wholesale is the most efficient way to scale and build a business. The companies I've worked in put bigger investments in R&D and industrial design than most D2C companies. And most D2C companies use stock packaging and that kind of cliché millennial graphic palette. Because we're trying to win on experience, we've had to make a bigger investment.
And I've always thought it was much more efficient to give margin to the retailer and have those great partnerships than it was to give that money to Facebook or Amazon.
My thinking is to put products where consumers want them -- in a store or on your site. And we're seeing that reckoning among pure D2C brands. They're moving to omnichannel.