British brand BullDog is now a regular sight on supermarket shelves, alongside other staple grooming brands, such as Gillette, L’Oreal Men Expert and King of Shaves, and it only took them four years. What’s more, they show no signs of slowing down, quite the contrary in fact; this year they released the world’s first Fairtrade male grooming products, started exporting to Sweden and we’re only in March. Despite his busy schedule, BullDog’s founder Simon Duffy took the time to talk with Ape to Gentleman and here’s what he had to say. The most obvious, but necessary, first question was…
EA: What made you decide to start Bulldog?
SD: I co-founded Bulldog Natural Grooming with my friend Rhodri in 2006. Today Bulldog is the UK’s first and largest natural skincare brand for men. The idea for Bulldog came during a chat over a few drinks. We started talking about just how boring, unisex and bland the current male grooming brands were. In 2006 we decided to quit our jobs and create Bulldog.
When we started we had no experience in the sector. It took an enormous amount of hard work and good fortune to launch our range. We both had to make huge sacrifices and it was a big struggle. We combined our life savings of £37,000, and to save money I even spent 6 months living with my fiancé on a building site.
Bulldog was launched nationwide with Sainsbury’s in July 2007. Since then we have launched with Boots, Tesco, Waitrose, Superdrug, Ocado, Whole Foods Market and Planet Organic. Today, this puts Bulldog in over 2,000 stores nationwide.
The idea for the name came from Rhodri’s childhood pet, a Bulldog called Spike. For us the Bulldog sums up all the positive attributes of men; He may not have a rippling six-pack, in fact he’s a little overweight and quite wrinkly, but he’s also tenacious, loyal, honest, hard working and protective. I see him as “Man’s Best Friend”.
EA: Earlier this year you made you first foray into foreign shores, and more recently you launched the first Fairtrade male grooming products; it seems that you feel that now is the right time to expand. Do you feel that men are finally beginning to take their ‘grooming’ seriously? What do you think prompted this change?
SD: Yes that’s right, In January we signed our first export deal to launch overseas. We launched with Kicks and Ahlens, two of Sweden’s best health and beauty retailers. We are now available nationwide in Sweden, and you can also find us in some stores in Finland and Norway. Our distribution should grow to up to 1,000 stores across in Scandinavia over the next 3 years. This is really exciting for us.
Across our business we are seeing a shift in consumer behaviour. Men are increasingly being driven away from conventional male grooming brands, and are looking for natural alternatives. At Bulldog no product contains controversial man-made chemicals such as parabens, sodium laureth sulfate, artificial colors, or synthetic fragrances. Instead, Bulldog products are loaded with essential oils and other amazing natural actives. This certainly appears to be appealing to an increasing number of people.
EA: What is your opinion of the current the relationship between Sport/Fashion and Male Grooming?
SD: Endorsement by a celebrity sportsman is the default way for a big male grooming brand to organise their marketing. This is such a boring and commoditised approach.
At Bulldog we like to do things differently, which is why we collaborated with BAFTA award winning comedian to create a new weekly online show called “David Mitchell’s Soapbox”. Soap Box was David Mitchell’s first online venture, and provided the perfect vehicle for his comedic commentary on current affairs and everyday life. His witty and topical rants ran as 3 to 5 minute shows across a 20 week period, covering everything from male grooming to flowers. The first series was an enormous success and Soapbox is one of the most downloaded video shows in iTunes history with close to 3 million views to date. They are still available for free through the iTunes store – check them out.
EA: The Bulldog range is extensive, and growing by the year. I know it must be hard to choose, but is there any particular product in the Bulldog range that stands out for you? For example, maybe one product with more personal connotations.
SD: I would have to say our Original Moisturiser. It was one of the first products we worked on when we started Bulldog and I use it twice a day. It seems that men agree with me, as it’s also our best selling product.
EA: Are there any other male grooming brands you have come across that you really respect? Why?
SD: To be honest I find the majority of other grooming brands incredibly boring. Right through from formulations to the way they market their products, they all seem to be doing everything in exactly the same way. As a whole it is a very uninspiring category.
EA: As Bulldog don’t have a fragrance (yet I might add), which fragrance would you say is currently top of your list?
SD: Actually I don’t have a regular fragrance. I love the smell of our Original Post Shave Balm. This product contains eight essential oils, including Armoise, Bergamot, Geranium and Vetivert, which combine to create a distinctively refreshing fragrance.
EA: And finally Simon, if you had one piece of advice you could give to anyone, what would it be?
SD: I firmly believe that if people use Bulldog products once they will keep on using them. So my advice would be to give Bulldog a try!