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Burt’s Bees Taps Into Founder’s Life With VR

The brand has teamed with Google to give a 360-degree view of the cabin Burt Shavitz once lived in.

Burt’s Bees is bringing cofounder Burt Shavitz’s bohemian, live-off-the-land mentality back to life.

Last year, the brand transported the turkey coop-turned-cabin that Shavitz, who died in 2015, had been living in, along with many of his personal belongings, from Maine to Burt’s Bees headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. The cabin was turned into a permanent installation offering tours to the public.

This month, the brand has teamed with Google to create an immersive, virtual-reality experience that allows the cabin to be toured digitally.

Burt’s Bees has relocated the rustic cabin of late co-founder Burt Shavitz from rural Maine to the company’s headquarters on the American Tobacco Campus (ATC) in Durham, NC, Tues., Jan. 17, 2017. The cabin, which has been restored to its original condition, displays Burt’s personal artifacts and provides a window into his daily life. The roughly 300-square-foot converted turkey coop originally renovated by Burt had no electricity or running water and genuinely reflected his ethos that “the old ways are the best ways” and “land is everything.” The exhibit will be open to public viewing with periodic tours of the cabin’s interior.
Shavitz’s cabin in Durham. D.L. Anderson

After Shavitz — whose visage is stamped on most Burt’s Bees products and packaging — died, the brand was looking for ways for consumers to connect with the eccentric founder.

“Part of the mystique of this brand is Burt and what he was like — people will ask, ‘Is he a real person?’” said Jim Geikie, general manager for Burt’s Bees. “He was a pretty complex man who lived a simple life that was closely connected to nature. The cabin he lived in illustrates the choices he made and the principles and values by which he lived his life.”

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Geike noted that he thinks consumers will connect with the brand through the authenticity of Shavitz — there is even a beehive on-site, reflective of Shavitz’s beekeeping hobby.

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“This is a brand that doesn’t translate well into flat print advertising,” said Geikie, who noted that Burt’s Bees has focused on opening retail stores to introduce the brand to international markets.

As consumer interest in wellness intensifies, Burt’s Bees has seen success with its natural positioning. In North America, industry sources estimate annual retail sales to be around $450 million, and the company is currently placing emphasis on developing its color cosmetics assortment, most notably in the lip category. According to IRI data tracking the 52 weeks ending April 17, 2017, the company’s lipsticks were up 69 percent from last year. Burt’s Bees also released protein powders earlier this year.

Tours of the cabin can be viewed at