I have always been rather mystified by the appeal of REN. I haven’t sampled the whole range, but the ones I have tried have been distinctly not particularly good examples of their class. I have also never quite worked out the philosophy behind what they approve of in the way of ingredients and what they don’t. But a lot of people like them and they have got good distribution and sales. Indeed, they have done well enough to be an enticing enough morsel for the giant conglomerate Unilever to add them to their wide portfolio.
My first thought when I read this was to think back about 5 years ago to an online discussion in which I was accused of being a big company shill for suggesting that most big cosmetic companies’ products were perfectly safe. The accuser it turned out only trusted genuine companies like, well, like REN.
I suppose I shouldn’t say I told you so.
The reality is that if you want to make some money one very good way to do it is to create a brand, build up the sales and then sell it to one of the big boys. There is nothing wrong with this – business is business. Big companies aren’t very good at spotting opportunities so there is a role there for entrepreneurs to identify a gap in the market and do the spade work of establishing it. This isn’t a game for the faint hearted. Establishing a brand takes a lot of hard work and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the founder of REN saw very little in the way of profit when he first started. Indeed until selling up he might well have seen very little in the way of return on his effort. So good luck to the go getters who follow this strategy and commiserations to the ones who don’t quite make it.
The thing is, one very appealing angle to take is exactly the one that REN and many other so called natural companies have taken. Projecting an image that you are somehow superior to others simply by dint of being natural is a bit of a naff approach. It doesn’t really bring very much to the table. If you are looking at a new brand it is worth pondering exactly what their strategy really is. They might be genuinely out to save the planet, in which case good luck to them. But their interest in green issues may well be distinctly skin deep.