Transformation from Commodity to Brand

It’s hard to imagine a time when collagen was not a major ingredient in the world of dietary supplements. It’s now ubiquitous in almost every brand’s portfolio and has had double-digit growth in the past five years, previously making up less than one percent of the beauty-from-within supplements market and now making up nine percent.

It became clear that NeoCell could genuinely claim that they understood the true science behind collagen. And by owning the science behind collagen as their differentiation, the brand could legitimately assert the leadership position.

When Jessica Mulligan, VP of Sales & Marketing at NeoCell, came to us in 2012, there were indications that the collagen category was about to explode. While there were a few main players on the forefront of the trend, no single one could claim dominance or clear leadership.

There was also an issue that Jessica and the NeoCell team identified — the emerging commodification of the category. With commodities comes a race to the bottom. May the cheapest collagen win. NeoCell began to experience the race firsthand with the arrival of smart, new competitors.

“We had reached a point where we couldn’t rely on growth solely from overall collagen category sales success,” said Jessica. “The buzz around collagen was growing, but that didn’t necessarily translate into a buzz around NeoCell.”

Knowing that they needed to define and activate the NeoCell brand, Jessica reached out to Pure Branding for a full brand restage engagement: Brand Opportunity, Brand Strategy, Market Research, Visual Strategy and Content Strategy.

In the Brand Opportunity phase, we encouraged NeoCell’s leadership team to dig deep into their own personal histories during a three-day onsite workshop. Founder Al Quadri had discovered collagen following a crisis in his own health, and it was during his investigation of holistic therapies that he happened upon hydrolyzed collagen. What separated Al’s thinking from so many others’ was his level of investigation into the regenerative power of collagen, and his commitment to make the same health and vitality he was then able to experience accessible to everyone.

“By working with our team of science advisors and applying our 5 Forces™ process, it became clear that NeoCell could genuinely claim that they understood the true science behind collagen,” remembered Yadim Medore. “And by owning the science behind collagen as their differentiation, the brand could legitimately assert the leadership position.”

The next step was market research and fielding quantitative interviews with dietary supplement consumers across the U.S. We also needed to determine how to best present the benefits of collagen and make NeoCell stand out in the category.

“Collagen aids in regenerating and forming new tissue,” explained Yadim. “As your body ages, specific thresholds of peptide concentration must be met to activate the biomechanisms necessary to achieve sustained collagen stimulation for therapeutic effect. In other words, your age dictates the quality and the levels of collagen you need. We applied this stage-of-life hypothesis to our research, investigating how people change with age, what they think is important now, what they fear, and what they want in future.”

By approaching the segmentation research through a combination of life stage, behavioral and psychographic frameworks, distinct RealPersona segment profiles emerged that directed NeoCell to their current offering architecture. The results also gave greater clarity to the “Why” of the Brand Center — NeoCell’s business is to help people at all stages of life live with confidence and vitality.

At the end of the Brand Strategy phase, NeoCell was ready to move into brand expression. That included a brand position, along with brand attributes, visual language, brand voice, brand philosophy, and most significantly, a communication platform and a brand center.

The next task was developing the brand communication map, which created a clear framework for creating conversation between NeoCell’s brand-specific content and its customers. It also helped to position the brand as the indisputable authority on collagen.

“The work we did on developing the strategy and communication map was foundational in being able to express NeoCell to all key audiences,” said Yadim. “We were able to take the complexities around the science of collagen and the collagen system of tissue regeneration, and make it accessible so that NeoCell could educate its retailers, consumers, and media.”

From this work came the current tagline, “The True Science of Collagen.”

Yadim continued, “We often speak to supplement manufacturers about not leading with the science. In this case, the collagen chatter was about everything except the science, and when it was discussed in the market it was very soft science. The key word was ‘true.’ NeoCell had the science behind the cycle of collagen regeneration. It had the personal story and why it was passionate about getting the facts out accurately. The subtext for the tagline was the company’s passion and commitment. Also, it put a stake in the ground for a claim that no other brand had yet made. From conversations I’ve had with other brands since, they are frustrated that NeoCell now owns the mantle of true science.”

“The work that Pure Branding did for NeoCell was transformational,” said Jessica. “Our positioning and story quickly established us as the leaders in collagen that competitors had to either mimic or try to counter.

“We took Pure Branding’s brand strategy, consumer insights, visual language, and design work and extended it everywhere — our trade show booth, marketing materials, website, and packaging.


3D rendering of trade show booth concepted by Pure Branding

“Furthermore, we had a product line that supported our story and spoke to both women and men at different stages in their lives. The story, the products, and the visuals all worked together beautifully to create a unique brand in an increasingly crowded space. Our branding was strong enough for us to grow into new channels and that omnichannel approach has enabled us to become America’s number one collagen.”

Since the rebrand, NeoCell has consistently outperformed the collagen category and solidified their leadership position.

That success was further validated in mid-2017 when Nutranext, the parent company of leading dietary supplement brands including Rainbow Light and Natural Vitality, acquired NeoCell. A year later, Clorox announced the acquisition of Nutranext for $700 million, bolstering their prior acquisition of the Renew Life brand in 2016.

One of the best decisions I have ever made was getting the Pure Branding team involved. We couldn’t have done it without them!

Jessica Mulligan
Former VP of Sales & Marketing, NeoCell