I was just dying to know more about their famous and catchy hashtags like #letsbefrank and #thefrankeffect, so we caught up with the babes (Jess Hatzis, Erika Geraerts and Bree Johnson) behind the culty beauty brand Frank Body… over a hot cuppa of course.
So, how do you guys know each other?
We all met at uni, worked the same part-time job and loved writing, and it was a dream that we would join forces and create an online publication. We spent so much time reading and writing our own blogs that it only made sense to. Together, we worked in media and communications for about 2-3 years before we started our own agency called Willow & Blake. Through this, we offered brand development to so many different clients, and we noticed a gap in the market (especially in the beauty, health and fitness sector) that was solely marketed through social media.
Give us a quick rundown of how your brand started…
Bree’s partner (Steve) has a few cafes in Melbourne and had some older women come in and ask for the leftover coffee grinds. They did that a few times and he thought they were just using it as fertilizer in their gardens… after a while, he asked them what they were using it for, and they told him they used it as an exfoliator, and that it was good for their cellulite and stretch marks.
So then, Steve and Bree did a bit of research and realised coffee scrubs were a thing, and there were a lot of DIY recipes but no one really sold it online. That’s how the original one came about.
For a while we had a team of about 20 people helping us everyday to make the product by hand. Our business partners Steve and Alex lead the charge of that full time. After a while it just got too much and we realised we needed a full-time manufacturing team, so we ended up working with a team in Melbourne.
What’s with the name Frank?
It’s all about “to be frank with someone” – we’re frank about the product and ingredients, and then obviously the character just stemmed from that. It’s a cheeky and sarcastic guy in our heads. We think an empowered woman can make fun of herself and look at another woman and call themselves a babe.
How do you guys juggle working in an agency and having a beauty brand?
We’re on our laptops all the time and drink a lot of coffee. The straight answer for it is that we just do it. There’s 6 of us at Willow & Blake now, between the two businesses there’s 15 of us.
We probably should be focusing a lot of attention on Frank, but Willow & Blake is where we started and it’s our baby. We also enjoy working with other brands as well, and we learn from other brands that we can use for Frank. We’ll see how it goes. We spend a lot of time with Frank, especially with this new launch and that’s taken priority. It’s all about shuffling and prioritising for us.
What do you think sets Frank apart from other beauty brands?
We were looking at a lot of other brands and felt that they were all quite impersonal, cold and corporate. They also weren’t really connecting with the customer at all. Our coffee scrub is flat-packed, affordable, and is made from really simple ingredients. We wanted to be quite honest with our customers and not dress it up in any way.
Tell us about your best-selling products…
These products are an extension of what we want in our own bathrooms. We’ve done surveys and our audience is so vocal on social and they tell us what ingredients they like and what they do and don’t like about the product. And for us I guess it’s just trying to tailor the product for them.
The original coffee scrub is an introduction to the brand. I guess for a lot of brands if that’s where you started and what you’re famous for, then that’s a default for people. The coconut scrub has been amazing for people with nut allergies and just because coconut oil is such an amazing ingredient and people know how nourishing it is. Jess loves cake, so it was just an answer for winter, for when the coconut one felt too summery. That’s why we made the cacao body scrub. And the peppermint scrub… I guess we just loved those ingredients and the smell of it. We also wanted something that was potentially targeted to athletes and help tired muscles. We’re always trying to think of different benefits that we can relate back to.
What about your new skincare products?
We started developing this face scrub and moisturiser about a year ago. We did a survey and people were just so keen for us to do a line of skincare. The key ingredient is coffee which is consistent across the whole range in different ways. The main benefit of coffee is that it stimulates blood flow to the skin, and it’s high in antioxidants so it’s great for rosacea, acne, eczema and psoriasis.
The boys are really good – they’re really proactive and want to develop different products. They really want to get inside the head of girls. For us, we want to produce things that replace whatever we currently have in our cupboards. It’s a lot of testing and we’re really pedantic – the creamy face scrub we wanted to nail how coarse the coffee grind was, and how much the cleanser foamed. We really wanted no added fragrance in our products, and we wanted to make them as natural as possible and that’s what made us take the longest time. We just wanted to keep them chemical free especially for people with sensitive skin.
Why was it important to have an Instagram called @frankfeedback?
It’s how we communicate with our customers. Consumers actually love to have their before and after shots posted on it, and they’re a true testament to the product. I think it’s really brave for people to want to share those kinds of images as well.
Tell us about the hashtags #letsbefrank and #thefrankeffect…
At Willow & Blake, social media strategy is one of our key jobs, and so for us we knew that social media was going to be a really important part of the marketing. Especially as Frank Body was a start up, we just didn’t have the budget to do TV commercials or traditional advertising.
We had a pretty aggressive social media campaign – we posted almost every hour and the page grew really quickly. We had #thefrankeffect and we had all of our customers generating that content for us and sharing their own stories has been really key to growing it really quickly. We did a lot of blogger and influencer outreach but it’s more the organic posts that really helped us grow. We were really lucky that the tone of voice lent itself so well to customers taking it on. They were emailing us everyday and taking on Frank’s tone of voice and being like “I just got dirty, it was awesome” and “let’s be frank, you’re amazing!” so we were able to develop these hashtags like #thefrankeffect and #letsbefrank that were so easy for people to use in conversation or in their uploads.
It also started with us taking those photos covered in the scrub and trying to show people what it looked like outside of the pack and how it worked. I guess there was an educational process but once it happened it snowballed. Now we are always looking for new ways for people to make content for us. The coffee scrub selfie is one thing but we encourage people to go on adventures with the scrub. They’ll be outdoors with waterfalls and they’ll take pictures of their bathroom cabinets or they’ll do drawings on the bags and create art with the coffee. It’s nice to build this community of people that take the brand to different levels. It even influences us for what we do next.
I love your new video campaign. Can you tell us more about it?
It came from our social media how they wanted to see different girls and having a lot of fun with it. The girls were so awesome and playful – I think it comes out in the photos. They were just doing their thing. Our brief was to have fun with the products, and they all had such strong personalities.
I guess a lot of beauty brands create these weird videos with people splashing their face with some water and it’s really serious. The brand has never been a really serious brand and we’re always having a bit of fun.
What are the next steps for Frank?
The brand is going through a bit of an evolution. We’ve got new scrub labels and that’s flowing onto the new skincare range as well.
We’re also moving away from the brand being overtly sexual, and more towards fun but still sexy. We really wanted to show how to use the product. We just want to grow everything up and step it up a notch. And have content that people actually want to share and look it.
Do you have any advice for people looking to start their own brand?
If you have an idea, don’t wait for the right moment to launch it. If we had done the same with Willow & Blake or Frank then it wouldn’t be the same.
It’s also important to find your own voice. It’s such a crowded market out there so it’s good to have a unique product. Make sure your personality and the way you portray yourself is really unique. If someone else is doing that… don’t do it!
I think it’s funny when people realise what’s successful and so they copy that to have that same succession. It doesn’t work like that.
And lastly, what are your favourite coffee places?
Other than our partner’s cafes, we would say Tall Timber, LBSS and Pardon in Melbourne, Sly and 4 Ate 5 in Sydney, and Alfred Coffee in LA.
Have you used a coffee scrub before? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below…