Mynd Spa & Salon's Todd Walter on Their 2019 Rebrand
by Jamison Stoike

Not many spas had the 109-year history and brand cachet of Red Door Spas, so it’s no surprise that the spa industry was caught off-guard by its rebrand into Mynd Spa & Salon. To shed light on the why and how of Mynd’s rebrand, Pulse spoke with Todd Walter, CEO of Mynd. Walter revealed something that’s not unfamiliar to any number of leaders in our industry: that there is often a large gap between what those inside the industry and those outside the industry perceive.

Pulse: Let’s start with a big question: in a nutshell, why did Red Door’s leadership feel that it was time for a rebrand?

Todd Walter: Red Door Spa has been operating under separate ownership from the Elizabeth Arden product company since 1992, under an exclusive global license from Elizabeth Arden. We’ve obviously been growing the business since then—there were only two locations open at that time—and we’ve increased the number of locations to 26.

Part of the challenge we’ve been facing for the past several years is that, under the terms of that license, we were required to carry all of the Elizabeth Arden products and to run all of our marketing, advertising and messaging through their marketing department for approval. We were wanting to go in a different direction. Over the past several years, we’ve been marketing to a younger consumer, but we’ve been somewhat restrained by Elizabeth Arden and the marketing direction that they wanted to go. And we found that among younger consumers there was a tremendous brand awareness about Red Door and Elizabeth Arden, but there was also a misperception that the brand wasn’t for them: that it was their mother’s brand or even their grandmother’s brand. We wanted to be appealing to that consumer, but it was difficult to overcome the preconceptions that they had.

P: So, it was driven by a desire to move past those preconceptions?

W: That was part of the driver. The other big thing is that we believe that having clean beauty products is essential, and we weren’t able to bring in those kinds of products under our license agreement. We’re very focused on offering cruelty-free products with consciously sourced ingredients. We reached the conclusion that—despite the recognition and 109-year heritage—that we would be better off changing our brand name, and that the opportunities outweighed the risks.

P: How was Mynd able to minimize those risks?

W: We’ve recognized that our guests are just as loyal—or even more loyal—to the individual service provider than the umbrella brand. They may have come to us in the first place because they recognized the brand name, but what brings them back are the quality of the service and the experience they receive from the individual service providers. So, we felt that given the strength of the relationships between our service providers and our guests, our service providers would continue to take good care of those guests and reassure them that this is a positive change, even though there was some risk associated with our rebrand.

We also felt that a rebrand would free us up to be more appealing to other prospective customers and allow us to be more inclusive. As we know from the ISPA research, men are one of the fastest-growing segments of spa-goers, but the Elizabeth Arden and Red Door brands were really thought of first and foremost as feminine brands. So, we were missing out on half of the population.

P: So, you decided to rebrand. What came next? How did you land on the core values of what the new brand would be?

W: The core values of the new brand are the same core values that we had as the Red Door. Who we are, what we do and what our people believe in hasn’t changed. What we wanted was a brand that better reflected what our core values and beliefs are. As an example, Elizabeth Arden is a product company and first and foremost about beauty. That’s certainly a big part of our business, but over half of our business is also about self-care, wellness and wellbeing. As we were trying to attract prospective customers, they saw Elizabeth Arden as beauty and not about comprehensive self-care.

As for the actual rebranding, we worked with a branding agency who helped us develop the brand name “Mynd Spa & Salon.” The spelling of it was very intentional. It was driven by our belief that everybody’s self-care journey is unique. What you’re trying to accomplish or what I’m trying to accomplish are probably different things. We wanted the name to be reflective of the fact that our spa is really driven by the consumer; our expertise comes into play by listening to what they are looking to accomplish and then helping facilitate that. The name was also a little bit of a play on words. Mind speaks to your mental health, but there’s also the verb “mind.” If you’re minding something, you’re focusing on it. Self-care is very much a proactive choice. It’s a conscious decision that people make. We wanted to somehow, through our brand, recognize that.

P: Did you do research or focus testing on the Mynd name?

W: We did do focus group testing, but not so much on the final brand name itself. We did it on the positioning statement around the rebrand. Part of the reason for that is that rebranding is not an easy process, especially in our industry. With the sheer number of product companies that are in our space, it was a very difficult process coming up with something that you could get through the PTO [Patent and Trademark] office and that was available. We went through hundreds of prospective names before we found something that we felt represented what we do.

P: Obviously, your product mix has switched up considerably. Did the spa’s menu change at all?

W: No, but we went through a process about two years ago where we dramatically simplified our menu. At the time, in excess of 60 percent of the services that people were booking appointments for ended up changing after the consultation with the service provider. So, we thought, “why have people go through that process?” Now, what you’re reserving is really just time with an expert. For example, there are now just three facials on our menu, whereas we used to have over twenty. We now just have a “mini,” an “essential,” and an “escape” facial. The mini is a 25-minute service, the essential is a 50-minute service and the escape is an 80-minute service. Every service is curated or personalized to your individual needs at the time of the service.

P: What are the design changes you’ve instituted at Mynd’s locations?

W: The first priority was changing the red door itself. We learned through focus groups and surveys that it was perceived literally as an opaque door, and people who weren’t current customers [found it] imposing and a little intimidating. So, one of the things that we’ve done is to make it a glass door so that people can see inside and, ideally, be less intimidated. We’ve also neutralized or removed the red and replaced it with more soothing and natural colors. We’ve introduced things like moss walls, as opposed to the hard, red lacquered surfaces. I believe it just feels warmer and more inviting than what we had previously. And again, it speaks to the more complete and holistic approach to self-care as opposed to just the beauty side and the glamorous side, if you will.

P: The rollout of the new branding was delayed at some Red Door locations. How did you decide which spas were renovated first?

W: We based it on geographic clusters. We started with our New York region and our flagship Fifth Avenue location; there’s a history in terms of Elizabeth Arden and how she started her own location on 5th Avenue, and so we felt it was important to start the next phase of our history there. Then we went out to some of our outer markets—Chicago, Florida, Texas, Arizona—and we’re finishing with our mid-Atlantic region. As we thought about the transition of products, we knew we needed to sell through the products that we wouldn’t be carrying after the complete rebrand was done. By starting with our largest region and finishing with our next largest region, it allowed us to sell through the inventory that we would be transitioning out of. It was both symbolic and pragmatic.

P: What has been the initial feedback from customers?

W: It’s funny, I would say the vast majority of feedback is that it’s very pleasant, it’s natural, it’s soothing. It was a pretty significant change from where we were with the bright-red lacquered door and a harder color palette. Now, it’s more natural and relaxing, so it’s perhaps more in-line with what people expect from a traditional spa. Certainly, we’ve received a number of comments as to why we would do this, why we would effectively relinquish a globally recognized brand for something that is new and different. It’s certainly understandable why people are asking that question.

P: Speaking of which, there’s been a great amount of surprise within the spa industry around the rebrand. Was Mynd surprised by the strong reaction of the industry?

W: No, I don’t think we were surprised. I think people from the outside know the recognition and the heritage—but I would say that the heritage doesn’t change. Our past hasn’t changed: it is what it is. I think what people may not understand are the limitations that we felt we had as a result of people’s preconceptions. And so ultimately, our decision was that the opportunities outweighed the risks. It doesn’t mean the risks don’t exist. I’m not surprised by people’s surprise, and I think that people are watching to see how we do at this point.

There’s a great quote that someone attributed to Darwin: “it’s not the strong who survive, it’s those who adapt.” As we look at how the industry is evolving, and how different consumers are being attracted to the industry, we believe that we have to adapt to meet the needs and wants of those consumers.

P: What was the reaction internally from Mynd’s locations?

W: The universal response was extremely positive, but it definitely varied from the less tenured to the more tenured. We’ve got over 250 team members who have been with us for more than 25 years. I think for them there was probably a bit more apprehension because it’s what they’ve always known.

P: How did you make them more comfortable about the change?

W: The first thing we did was to make sure that they appreciated that their guests are coming to see them. The guest is loyal to them as individuals. So, as long as they felt comfortable and confident about the rebrand, then the guest would as well. To help them in that process, we developed FAQs and talking points for how to share the news with their guests.

P: But Mynd’s staff responded well to the change, by and large?

W: My favorite story is a 25-year Red Door veteran who said, “Look, when I came to this country I was six months pregnant. I had everything I owned in two suitcases and I had $400 in my pocket. This is going to be nothing.” That was an amazing attitude, I thought. The response even from the more tenured team members was just amazing, from “It’s time for a change,” to “I like the new look and feel, this is exciting.” Our less-tenured team members are 100 percent excited because they recognize the opportunities and that the new brand will [be more] inclusive. That would be the final thing I would say: our team is made up of people from all over the world. There is an appreciation for being more inclusive than we felt we could have been under the Elizabeth Arden and Red Door brand. So it’s amazing how universally the new brand was accepted, and perhaps for different reasons by the different groups of our team members.