Well Told Branding
by Kristina Urquhart
September 27, 2017
A former ad exec brings beauty and sustainability to the supplement market
Many of us shake out a vitamin or other supplement pill as part of our morning routines, but do we really know what we are consuming?
Monica Ruffo, a former ad exec, says we don’t. She’s spent the last two years creating her just-launched line of supplements called Well Told Health. They’re vegan, organic, and made of whole foods—and will likely please any nutritional-deprived creative pro because they’re beautifully packaged to boot.
Ruffo, who ran her own agency, Amuse, between stints as CEO of Lowe Roche and chief strategy officer at Cossette, got the idea for her business after getting diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.
As part of her treatment plan, she tried to find 100 per cent natural supplements, but to no avail. Further research showed her that only 37 per cent of ingredients in the top 100 supplement brands could be considered natural. Many are made with synthetic or animal-based fillers.
Ruffo had found her niche, but that was only the seedling of her company. First, she decided to obtain a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University, and then she put together a medical advisory board before overseeing the development of the supplements.
Along with her friend and collaborator Geneviève Lapointe, a Montreal-based designer, Ruffo created eye-catching branding that labeled the company as transparent, sustainable and stylish with its modern British apothecary feel featuring custom bottles, recycled paper and water-based inks. They tapped British illustrator Josh McKenna to execute some collateral including a promotional video (below).
Once Well Told Health gets off the ground, Ruffo plans to donate one per cent of sales to food-based charities. She shares more behind the brand with us.
Applied Arts: Can you elaborate on the process of going from your idea after getting your own cancer diagnosis to actually building this business?
Monica Ruffo: It’s a long and winding road from the germ of an idea to actually making it come to life. Any entrepreneur will tell you that starting a company is really 99.9% execution, and you have to pivot, re-evaluate and re-jig many times when you’re doing something no one has done before. I can’t begin to tell you how many people said what we were doing couldn’t be done. You have to be very nimble, optimistic and open to change every step of the way when you aspire to be a disruptor brand. It’s been interesting for me coming from an advertising and creative background, always being surrounded by very innovative people. It’s an eye opener when you step into another industry—especially a huge industry like the supplement business—and realize that’s not really how people are wired. So the process of surrounding myself with the right ecosystem of people willing to innovate and disrupt this industry was a lot more difficult than I imagined, and occupied a lot of time. What I bring to the table is a strong background in branding, marketing and communications, as well as the experience of running a business. But I don’t pretend to know what I don’t know. This is an industry I haven’t worked in before, and I don’t have a medical background, so the first thing I did was enroll in a plant-based nutrition program at Cornell University, which I loved because I was very passionate about the subject matter and eager to learn more. I also surrounded myself with a strong medical advisory board that was instrumental in getting us to where we are today.
AA: Who is your target market?
MR: Our products can really appeal to anyone who wants to improve their health; they are high end, but with a median price because we want to be accessible. That being said, our overall brand mission, brand values and aesthetic are particularly well suited to millennials, who truly value transparency, dialogue and thoughtful design in the brands they choose.
AA: Can you elaborate more on why you chose the name Well Told Health? What connections are you trying to make with your consumer?
MR: The supplement industry is a very opaque industry, and that’s one of the things we felt very strongly about changing. Not only are our products different, but we wanted our brand to be completely transparent and “well told” in everything we do, in order to empower consumers to make enlightened decisions.
AA: Let’s talk about the branding system. What inspired you to go for a modern British apothecary feel? What led you to using Josh McKenna as your illustrator?
MR: The core essence of our brand is empowering and pampering our customers. We wanted people to feel really special when using our products, giving themselves a little self-love, so to speak. We chose colours that are warm and inviting, and the old British apothecary theme gave us the ability to create a brand that is classic, timeless, and infused with a sense of credibility, but also highly differentiated from what is on the market today. For example, we designed bottles that are perfect squares (as were often used in old British apothecaries) as opposed to cylindrical shapes, which are most commonly used for supplements. We had the bottles custom blown to meet our specifications for size and colour and the rose gold caps added a very modern touch. The mix of fonts also enables us to mix old and new.
In terms of working with Josh McKenna, it’s a bit of a crazy story! I was at Soho House in Toronto having lunch with our creative director and lead designer, Geneviève Lapointe, and we were lamenting that we were having so much trouble finding the right illustrator to fit with what we wanted to do for the brand video. We’d been looking for a while and just hadn’t found the perfect fit. On our way out the latest issue of Soho House magazine was sitting on a table, and on the front cover there was an illustration by Josh McKenna. We both saw it at the same time, and it was just one of those weird moments that life can serve up, because it was exactly what we had been looking for. We knew Josh was the guy even though he was in London. I reached out to him and he got back to me right away. He loved the brand ethos and aesthetic and everything about what we were doing and agreed to work with us. It has been an absolutely effortless and fantastic working relationship. It was the first video he’d ever done, as well our brand’s first video, and we’re all very proud of it. I hope to meet him face to face one day—we’ve only ever met via Skype.
Well Told Health is available online here.
Creative Director and Lead Designer: Geneviève Lapointe
Graphic designer: Steve Desmarais
Photography: Amber Lomer and Robert Ruffo (Amber+Robert); Roger Proulx
3D artist: Diane Simard
Project Managers: Manon Pelletier (packaging), Asaf Salem & David Benchetrit (Blue Badger for website)
Website UX: Rachel Richer (Blue Badger)
Front end development: Rohan Paranjpe, Sebastian Catalin Paraschivescu (Blue Badger)
Back end development: Alexander Tarasov, Tony Belanger (Blue Badger)
Web Tech lead: Jonathan Hiltser (Blue Badger)
Copywriters: Rae Ann Fera, Odile Coiteux, Rosali Peccia
Illustrator (video): Josh McKenna
Animator (video): Sophie Koko Gate
Music and sound design (video): Skillbard
Public Relations and social media:
Erin Richards, Kylie McGregor & Brianna Persall (Hype PR); Katie Volney (Lola Red); Shannon Stephaniuk (Glossy); Raphaelle Harvey
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