When Canadian entrepreneurs Maria and Charles Desmarais set out to launch their self-care essentials brand Athena Club across Canada, they were primed to upend the country’s hypercompetitive wellness industry. Through a regimen-ready range of products, a clever combination of culturally-aware marketing campaigns, and a direct-to-consumer business model that addresses the shifting demands of today’s online shoppers, the Desmaraises have set a new precedent for wellness brands.
Vogue awarded the brand with the “best razor for sensitive skin” earlier this year – a notable feat for any shaving and wellness brand – and that’s only one of many buys: their products are accessible, backed by scientific research, and include natural and sustainable ingredients. Since their launch in 2019, they’ve been delivering their state of bliss to American homes from their direct-to-consumer website.
“The concept for Athena Club came so much from personal experience and the inconvenience that often comes with having to purchase personal care products. I can’t begin to recall the number of times I didn’t have tampons when I needed them,” recounts Maria Desmarais, co-CEO and co-founder of Athena Club. “We wanted to create a solution that was very easy, very straightforward, and very reliable, with high quality products that look amazing, that feel amazing, and that are affordable.”
In November 2020, Business Insider named Athena Club one of the 25 fastest growing e-commerce brands. In the past 24 months alone, the brand has shipped over 1 million products to customers across the U.S. while their subscriber base has increased by over 1000 per cent. According to Wunderman Thompson’s The Future Shopper 2021 report, 73 per cent of global shoppers reported that e-commerce had become increasingly important to them while 15 per cent of global consumers preferred shopping directly through a brand’s e-commerce platform, coming in second after digital marketplaces like Amazon.
While a convenient self-care shopping experience is at the heart of their success, their compelling, diverse, and inclusive marketing narrative has tapped into today’s cultural zeitgeist and generated buzz. It’s a pivot from the predictable, ultra-feminine, and unrealistic personal-care marketing imagery that is ubiquitous within the industry.
“We saw an opportunity to not only create a product that was affordable and that didn’t charge a crazy amount for the quality that customers deserve but we also saw an opportunity to show how people actually use their razors.” says Maria Desmarais. “I mean, you don’t just use a razor to shave your legs; you can shave your face, your armpits, your elbows, and your knuckles. You can even share your razor. Everyone shaves differently so we want to share everyone’s stories.”
In their debut campaign, a young woman shaving for the first time, a woman shaving her upper-lip hair (a typically clandestine affair), an expectant mother shaving her bulging baby bump, and a man shaving his armpits put a spin on what you’d expect from a traditional shaving ad. U.S. Olympic track star Tianna Bartoletta, gymnast Norah Flatley, model Fabienne Heymans, and social media influencer Diana Vieras all have starring roles.
“Similar to our U.S. growth marketing strategy, we want to ensure we have a diversified channel approach, and are constantly testing and evolving where we’re putting our dollars,” says Maria Desmarais. “We anticipate that influencer will be an especially fruitful channel for us, given our existing relationships with talent in the market. Building community and doing the important work of relationship building is super important for us.” Canadian influencers on the roster include fashion and lifestyle tastemaker Beatrice De Oliveira, product aficionado Sarah Nicole Harvey, and style enthusiast Chiara Plastina.
For the Canadian launch of Athena Club, the brand is aiming for 100,000 Canadian subscribers within their first year and is expected to grow at the same scale as their second year of operations in the U.S., which was a pivotal year for the business.
Top Sellers to Try
1. The Razor Kit, $9/with subscription, the brand’s success model. Engineered to shave difficult spots and available in pop art colours, refill blades are delivered according to your needs and schedule.
2. Cloud Shave Foam, $9/with subscription, a must-have for an intimate and gentle shave. Made with cooling aloe and soothing oat extract to protect, hydrate, and soften even the most delicate skin.
3. All Day Deo, $12/with subscription, an all-natural and plant-based alternative. This solid stick formula dries instantly, leaves no white residue, and comes in three scents: grapefruit, rose vanilla, and tropical bergamot.
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