Justin Brown scoured the skin-care products in his bathroom cabinet and found them lacking.
“I tried a lot of brands, but never felt I fell in love with one or had my brand, if you will. I felt uninspired, and I knew I couldn’t be the only guy who felt the way I did,” he said. “The brands I tried were either highly effective, but didn’t smell good or they smelled great, but weren’t highly effective. There was something always missing.”
Brown pined to create the sophisticated, sensorial products he believed were missing in the men’s personal-care segment. There was a major roadblock, though: his day job as global director of marketing, communications and outsourcing at Japanese cleaning and hygiene solutions provider CxS Corp. Fortuitously, the company began a program to incubate brands far afield from its core business, and Brown jumped on the chance to bring his idea to life.
“Companies are realizing that to grow in completely different areas than they have focused on, one of the best ways to do that is to let people with an idea run with it and see what happens,” explained Brown, a Tokyo resident raised in the U.S. and the U.K. “It’s an interesting model that will continue to grow in popularity in Japan.”
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CxS’ incubation initiative spawned Shodai, Brown’s new men’s grooming brand centered at first on a $20 face wash and a $24 face moisturizer. Aimed at the outset at the American market, the products combine traditional Japanese ingredients including hiba oil, sake, green tea and onsen water or hot spring water with modern skin-care approaches such as leaving out parabens, and artificial colors and fragrances. “The ingredients have long, storied histories of delivering benefits in skin care,” said Brown.
A trip to the bath at a Japanese lodge prodded Brown to showcase hiba oil, which comes from a Japanese cypress tree, in Shodai’s formulas. “The bath is made out of the Japanese cypress tree and, when I walked into it, the whole room smelled amazing. I had brief dreams of setting up that bath in my house. That didn’t happen, but the scent stuck with me,” said Brown. “I started to research it, and it turned out that not only did it smell good, but it had antibacterial properties.”
Shodai’s clean black packaging and its two-step regimen underscores its no-fuss stance on men’s skin care. “We are not trying to target the guy who is comfortable using a seven-step routine on a daily basis,” said Brown. “We are looking for the modern, well-traveled guy that wants to take care of his face simply. They have face washes, moisturizers and maybe one more product in their routines, but that’s about all.” As Shodai expands its product portfolio, Brown forecasted it would add body-care items rather than complicate its facial product lineup.
For the remainder of this year, Shodai will only be available online and a prestige distribution is planned after that. “You will never see Shodai for sale at Wal-Mart. The price point and the branding don’t make sense for that channel,” said Brown. “I hope it will become a strong niche player.” CxS, where Shodai is managed independently, is footing the resources to get the brand there. “I don’t think there is any risk of the brand going anywhere,” said Brown. “The brand is in a stable environment, and CxS is committed to making it work.”