The Progression Of The Male Grooming Salon

The branding of Sorbet Man was a challenge accepted with open arms by Veronica Botes and her team… and they did a good job. Here’s why.

“I don’t want to. It’s not for me. I don’t do this stuff. What is this for, anyway?” These were the exact lines my friend was given after she proudly handed over a voucher from Sorbet Man to her father when it opened in 2014.  I waited with bated breath for feedback. Little did my friend know that Designvow, of which I am a partner, designed and created Sorbet Man’s branding and interiors.

Not to say that I was personally responsible for his grooming experience at the shop, but we knew the place had to feel super-manly to offset any fears some men may have when considering visiting a male grooming salon. And his response was exactly as I had feared, “How the hell are we going to get men into that salon?”

My fears were of course baseless; our strategy had worked. Her father entered the shop, pumped up with preconception and left pleasantly surprised.  He entered saying “Come back for me in 30 minutes” and when she did, she was told to come back later. The reason: the golf being shown in the salon was getting exciting and he had just booked himself a shave cause his new friend Gary (who he met at the salon over a brandy) was having one too.

Three hours later her father left Sandton City with gleaming skin and a follow-up appointment at Sorbet Man.

Such is the power of creating a compelling, branded experience from end-to-end.   Fast-forward a year and I hear you cannot get a booking at the Sandton branch due to the high demand. Male salons are certainly here to stay.

“It wasn’t easy; I think it was very tempting for the client to stay in pure Sorbet territory. As much as we felt it was an asset, it was also a challenge, since the name, Sorbet Man sounded like a very palate cleansing superhero and we were worried that the visual association with a well-known female brand like Sorbet would put men off. Our logo and visual language had to work extra hard to get away from the traditional female cues established by the Sorbet brand. We did tons of research and male grooming today is very different from 10 years ago when female trends used to drive male grooming trends. Today men want their own products and their own spaces. Over the past five years, we have entered the Lumbersexual era where men groom in a manly way; they condition their beards; wear chunky yet fancy boots and bold manly colours and this is what drove the visual style of the brand,” says Pierre Joubert, my partner and designer on the project.

In line with this, we came up with the line “Real Men Groom” to further offset any potential reservations that men may have with the salon concept and paid extra special attention to the details within the shop.  Old school male grooming symbols were built into the design at most touchpoints. The clocks were specially designed to look like cut throat blades from barbershops. The shelving, logo and business cards were all designed in razor blade shapes. Everything feels and says “It’s manly in here. Come inside.”

Long may the male grooming last… I for one, am certainly not complaining.


By Veronica Botes

PS. If you’d like to delve further into the topic of branding, check out this piece on branding an SME.

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