Any brand is human. A brand fire is started by a person. It comes from a human spirit and mind: it’s made for humans. Human brand.

Interestingly enough, this simple equation is sometimes forgotten. People focus on transactions, engineering commerce — and they just forget about the genetics of heart and emotion, foundation and connectivity. How do we, at Girvin, get back to that?

We look back into the heart of the story to learn of the components, the genetic code, the brand DNA — and then we build on that.

And that building takes every aspect of possible connective touch in experience — how people relate, into accounting.

What is relating? Relating is about a sense of reference — a kind of referral:

relate: c.1530, “to recount, tell,” from L. relatus, used as pp. of referre (see refer), from re-back, again” + latus. Meaning “to establish a relation between” is from 1771. Sense of “to feel connected or sympathetic to” is attested from 1950, originally in psychological expression.

refer: c.1374, “to trace back, attribute, assign,” from O.Fr. referer (14c.), from L. referreto relate, refer,” lit. “to carry back,” from re-back” + ferrecarry” (see infer). Meaning “to commit to some authority for a decision” is from 1456; sense of “to direct (someone) to a book, etc.” is from 1601. Referral, “act of referring” is first recorded 1934.

From an etymologic perspective, to relate — relating — is a “recounting”, to retell, to move in, to find; to reconnect, to come back again. To relate, a relationship: it’s storytelling. Sebastian Professional | International is something like that. There’s a story. There’s a legacy. And it’s beautiful — and it’s at the root of the work that we do: looking for heart. I think that drives me, drives the team at Girvin — finding heart. Finding soul. Finding beauty.

But it’s about the celebration, the enthusiasm, the love of it.

Jean Baptiste Salvado | Creative Brand Director, Procter & Gamble

If you love it, the brand legacy — the story becomes renewed, refined, resolved — and part of the code is revealed. And it’s a beautiful thing.

What’s that story, then?

For thirty years, Sebastian Professional has been well recognized brand in the salon industry. In the 70s, John Sebastian, his wife, Geri and his brother Tony began the story — their business was activated by their invention of a straightening iron, as well as a curling iron. Hardware styling innovation first.

After 1974, after Geri spent nearly a full day trying to curl the tresses of Barbra Streisand — a process so time-consuming that Geri invented the crimping iron to accelerate the effort — the product innovation sparked the team into a formal corporate partnership.

Two years later, the company initiated sales of professional liquid hair care products — innovating their Shaper offerings. Those innovations continued. Salon stylists selected the best from Sebastian’s sub-product groupings — from their “Originals” to their “Laminates“, “Body Double” to their “Extah” and “Potion 9” inventions, to build the opening sales of the Sebastian product offerings.

Where they were:

Still, the sub-lines merely supported basic sales growth — boosted by a cult-like following. And much of the visualizations and styling of the brand come from, during that time, the visionary: Robert Lobetta, Creative Director of Sebastian Professional. After 35 years, the beauty industry has peppered Robert Lobetta “with a life filled with successes and failures, opportunities and adventures“, according to Sebastian releases.

It all began in 1973 when Lobetta apprenticed with Ricci Burns in London and avant-garde hair designs became his signature. His influence in London continued when he became creative director for the famous MichaelJohn salon, and went global in 1985 when he began working with Geri Cusenza of Sebastian International.

Lobetta found his true artistic calling—photography—and has created the exotic, explorative looks that have branded the company over the years.

Instantly recognizable, often provocative and sometimes bordering on the obscene, Lobetta’s photography has helped to propel the company to worldwide recognition.”

The Lobetta and Cusenza collaboration fueled the flames of a marvelously fashionable brand expression — and wildly creative, evocative of the link between hair styling fashion in the professional world, yet bridged to pure fashion design.

How could the efforts of the Sebastian familial innovation team advance the propositions? Therein: the resonance of the story — if you tell something that is internally, culturally powerful — are your customers listening; do they care?

More to the story: P&G purchased the German group Wella AG in 2003, including the lines of Graham Webb International and Sebastian — from there a reinvention planning emerged. A staggeringly extensive stylist and consumer testing unfolded — the largest ever in the salon industry, maximizing Procter & Gamble’s intensive research techniques and state of the art product technology innovations — managing 10,000 consumer interviews, connecting with 800 industry professionals and a select gathering of 80 consulting experts. The outcome of these explorations: alter and tune everything, except for the value of the brand name itself.

With focused listening to the Aspiring Artists and Beauty Junkies — a specially defined and selected gathering of demographic indices to explore — and to spread — the new word of P&G’s Sebastian International: “Fearless Hair Fashion” [http://www.sebastianprofessional.com/en_US/].

For Girvin, brandfire — passion — is poetry, it’s art, it’s soul — it’s finding that beauty that lies at the heart of the human proposition:

What was our process?

Smart, art, part.
Stand, brand, strand.

There needs to be intelligence in brand development, strategic art — then, parting that pathway to build legacy thoroughfares, building product expansion approaches. Stand by the brand, know its world, create strands that reach out and touch — everyone.

It was about digging into the history — that Sebastian story; understanding brand culture — what drives, what has driven the spirit of the brand; and, in considerations of P&G testing and consumer relationships — creating a grouping of solutions that, progressively, achieve resonance. To even consider that exploration, you’ve got to know that world, speak beauty.

Here’s a take on that evolution:

The beginning:

The opening worlds:

And there were more, many more — but you get the picture…

Still, what is the surrounding, competitive world? How do you work on finding the heat, the heart of the brand?

We invent tools to explore, excavate, explicate:

A sampling of Girvin Brand Spheres:

And the break out of those analyses:

Exploring brand spheres composites:

Exploring archetypal positioning:

Metaphor mindstorms:

Messaging brand structure:

Outcomes in visualizations and testing modules:

Finding the heart of the brand tattoo:

One of dozens of explorations in form, brand language visualizations, beauty speech:


What story — found? From the ranging curiosity and inventiveness of the beauty of the opening, familial visioning of the Sebastian clan, to the explosive eroticism of Robert Lobetta, the Wella transitions, and the P&G acquisition, the deep dive into rethinking, revisualizing and celebrating the brand quintessence — the audience: newly found, newly named, newly aligned — and building on these foundations, this legacy, to vitalize Sebastian Professional, for the world.

An especial thanks to Jean Baptiste Salvado, Rick Hasselbeck, Kubica Guevara & Art Herstol — for being our P&G partners; and to NYC | Girvin Creative Director Alex Williams, Operations Manager Cristina Espinosa, and all the Girvin teams in both offices, that made the extraordinary happen!

Tim Girvin

Cristina Espinosa and Alex Williams, GIRVIN, at the Wella Studio