Red exit signs drive Craig Dubitsky nuts.
“What do you do when you see the color red? Stop. If there were a fire, would you want to stop?” asked Dubitsky, the VCU School of Business 2016 executive-in-residence. “It kills me. It drives me crazy. My level of agitation with these things is what’s driven me.”
Dubitsky, founder and CEO of Hello Products, a line of friendly, natural oral health care products, sees the design of everything, everywhere.
There is no such thing as a boring category, he said. People care about everything. In his case, it’s exit signs.
“Politics isn’t boring,” he said. “We care about everything. If you care about it how can it be boring? Everything is art. Life imitates art. Let’s create the art we want in our everyday lives. … You’ve got to make whatever you’re working on look awesome. If it isn’t cultural, emotional, economically relevant, it’s not innovative. If no one [cares], it doesn’t matter.”
“Everything is art. Life imitates art.”
People need to feel something, he stressed. If creatives don’t feel something first, how can they expect anyone else to feel passionate about their products? What’s more, the bar is set low everywhere.
“Most things kind of suck,” Dubitsky said.
The good news is innovation and opportunities are hiding in plain site.
Take the oral health care industry. Dubitsky found it not only unfriendly but downright offensive, with its aggressive marketing and packaging that promises to kill, eliminate and destroy odor, germs and bacteria.
“I was like, WTF?” Dubitsky said, noting that the global icon for good oral health is an extracted tooth. “Where’s the function, freshness, fashion, flavor?”
So Dubitsky created Hello toothpaste, which tastes awesome and does the same job as harsher products, but with healthier ingredients.
“No one was doing that. No one’s made toothpaste you can eat,” he said before squeezing about two tablespoons of Hello’s fluoride-free paste into his mouth and eating it.
Hello Products was named one of the top challenger brands — small brands that disrupt bigger brands — two years in a row, by the Challenger Project. But Dubitsky doesn’t want to be a challenger, he wants to be a questioner: “Why the hell wasn’t it always like this?” he asked.
“Innovation is word that gets abused a lot,” Dubitsky said. “Most people think innovation is technical. To me innovation is creating something that people fall in love with. We’re winning on an emotional level. Its an emotional innovation.”
The key, he said, is cultural currency — knowing what people want before they do.
Prior to launching New Jersey-based Hello Products, Dubitsky disrupted the home products industry as a founding board member of green-cleaning upstart Method Products and created a sensation again as co-founder of lip and skincare maker eos Products.
He met the Method founders when they were just two guys making soap in their bathroom.
“Who ever thought soap could be cool?” he said.
Now, Method is a piece of art you use every day.