By  on April 13, 2007

Circle of Friends is widening its circumference.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based children's hair and bath products company has introduced Little Docs, an all-natural eczema treatment line. The new line allows Circle of Friends, which sells its namesake professional brand mostly to salons and specialty retailers, to reach a broader range of retailers, including 100 Wal-Mart stores in California, 200 H-E-B stores in Texas and 150 Target stores.

"One feedback I would get from moms was that their little one has eczema, and they can only use fragrance-free products," said Eleanor Keare, president of Circle of Friends. "The products on the market are really geared more toward adults. There aren't things friendly and fun for kids."

Little Docs' development process stretched over three years due to extensive testing of the formulation and packaging. The company secured two sets of chemists to create two different formulas and then sent them to 24 eczema-affected families to try, unaware of the formula they received. Luckily, the results were skewed heavily in favor of one formula.

"Especially as an independent small brand, parents need to have the confidence that this is not something I whipped up at my kitchen sink," said Keare. "It is very safe, high quality, dependable and is not going to vary from one time they buy it to the next time."

To perfect the labeling, Circle of Friends conducted an online survey of 1,000 mothers of children between the ages of two and 10 that suffer from eczema. Questions covered, for example, how valuable the phrases "dermatologist tested," "tearless," and "allergen free" are to the mothers. All three are used on Little Docs' labels.

"In salons, you can rely on the salon people to help sell your product. In the mass market, it was more important to make sure that our products sell themselves," said Keare.

To keep Little Docs distinct from its Circle of Friends line, the company avoided putting its name on the front of the bottles. That choice was made to eliminate confusion over the different lines, especially because the namesake line is known for fragrances and colors.

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