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THE TOPICS

Case Study: Jack N’ Jill Kids
Justin Bernhaut
A children’s toothpaste range may sound like a nursery rhyme but developing it wasn’t just child’s play for second-generation pharmacist Justin Bernhaut and his wife…

A children’s toothpaste range may sound like a nursery rhyme but developing it wasn’t just child’s play for second-generation pharmacist Justin Bernhaut and his wife. Lessons from his father and children helped to create a global business that is no fairy tale.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS

Jack N’ Jill Kids

I grew up with pharmacies in the 1980s when there was a strong sense of dynamism in the industry. It was undergoing massive changes that saw the introduction of computerised dispensing and the beginning of the refined marketing group.

Individual pharmacies had different personalities and provided unique healthcare and retail experiences, even if they were paid-up banner group members. This personality was underpinned by the head pharmacist/owner.

There was a clear understanding that you were engaging with a human being, whether that be the pharmacist or one of the family-like staff members who were also fixtures of ‘the shop’. There was a time when we didn’t think of turnover in terms of square footage or retail-savvy shop fittings. The real asset was the pharmacist.

Pharmacies were a reliable source for advice, medicines and an eclectic mix of retail offerings.

THINGS MY FATHER TAUGHT ME

Jack N’ Jill Kids

Throughout his career in pharmacy, my father was known to his customers as ‘Adam’. Whether Mrs Goldberg was enquiring about mixing her blood pressure medication with a Bloody Mary, or seeking help with inserting film into her late husband’s Hasselblad, only Adam had the answer.

Very early on, it struck me just how dependent a community can become on their local pharmacist. The cold reality set in after graduating from pharmacy college myself – with all the latest knowledge and an eagerness to disseminate it, I was often overlooked in favour of ‘Adam’s’ wisdom. Fair enough, too – he’d been a fixture in that community for decades already.

My father had all the standard pharmacy offerings and, probably because he took a personal interest, chose to stock a variety of commodities ranging from professional cameras and electronic games to French fragrances. He even took to importing some of these goods himself. His personal interests helped define his business.

Price is important, but for many people it’s down the list. If price is the only incentive you have for your customers, you will struggle to be sustainable. Offer something unique – yourself.

DO AS YOU WANT DONE

Developing Jack N’ Jill Toothpaste has been guided by the many ideas touched on here. I spent many years becoming highly accomplished at things that others were also good at. Often I could perform these tasks in a superior way – but this didn’t guarantee any more success than others.

Jack N’ Jill was born out viewing the world through a different lens. Instead of only looking at the marketplace and trying to out-perform someone, my wife and I created the product and brand that we wanted to buy for our own children. We had a simple approach that assumed that if we wanted to buy it, other parents would too.

To satisfy our criteria, Jack N’ Jill needed to address some issues:

1. Complete safety for a toddler/child to ingest. The product needed to be efficacious and have components with a known safety profile.
2. Taste – we put the formulation rulebook aside and re-engineered the idea of what toothpaste should comprise. Understanding the challenges that parents face when brushing a young child’s teeth dictated the need for a product that would taste ‘yum’. Many years will pass before a child will truly understand the value of good oral hygiene – if it tastes good, they won’t care what the purpose of brushing is. We felt that by making it fun, children are likely to develop a positive association with brushing from an early age, which will last a lifetime.
3. Branding – teeth cleaning is such a fundamental part of our daily routine that we wanted to align it with a traditional theme. The Jack and Jill nursery rhyme creates this in an ideal way. There is also a warm familiarity without requiring another Marvel™ or Nickelodeon™ licensed image/character.
4. Packaging – it needed to be serious yet playful, environmentally friendly and appealing to adults as well as children. It also needed to stand out in a retail environment – we wanted it to bear little or no resemblance to other products in this category. We have applied these design principles throughout our range.

From nursery rhyme to global business

After four years, our products are available in more than 30 countries and business is growing rapidly. Our approach has allowed the brand to capture the zeitgeist of modern parenting.

Doing business was never easy and in many ways it has become increasingly more difficult. But opportunity is not directly proportional to this – I believe it is independent for the most part. Don’t strive to be as good as the ‘best’ out there. Strive to let your personality define the fabric of your business, and the way you engage with your community. It’s all you’ve got.