Interview with Craig Dubitsky, founder of Hello products. New chief innovation strategist at Colgate-Palmolive
Interview by Terri Goldstein
The first thing you notice about Craig Dubitsky is his smile—wide and approachable, practically radiating kindness. Years ago, I met him at a conference. He was wearing jeans and a comfortable checked shirt—sticking out in a sea of suits and ties and serious faces. It’s his de facto uniform and however much it strays from corporate dress codes, it encapsulates everything Craig is—friendly, warm, excitable and compassionate. From the first “hello,” I knew we were bound to be friends. He’s an accomplished entrepreneur, devoted husband and loving father. In January of this year, his brainchild, Hello—an innovative brand of oral care products—was acquired by Colgate-Palmolive—the most recent in a long list of professional and personal achievements. As a long-time friend and colleague, I recently got to interview Craig about the story behind Hello and the importance of storytelling in branding. As always, his answers were insightful, his demeanor warm, and in the end, he proved why Hello’s motto is “naturally friendly.”
Please share with Branders readers a little bit about Craig Dubitsky and what motivated you to create Hello
I love people, music, brand, design, and people. I said people twice, because I really love people—people are fascinating and amazing! We’re all unique, absolutely, but we’re also very, very similar in so many ways, and from a brand, product and design perspective, I love to tap into what we all share in common, and to create products that celebrate our similarities and our shared (and too often, overlooked!) sensibilities around ethics and aesthetics. I’m so lucky to be able to work with awesome peeps to create things that can be used by everyone, and that elevate the everyday!
I’m a life-long entrepreneur and arbitrageur, and I see opportunities everywhere. I had a lemonade stand as a kid, but my lemonade stand also had a carwash. If I could wash someone’s car, I had a captive audience and I could upsell more lemonade that way. I would employ neighborhood kids to help out, so I learned the importance of having a great team from my earliest entrepreneurial days. My first job out of college was as a clerk on the floor of the commodities exchange in New York. I’m naturally curious (as well as naturally friendly™!), and I kept asking questions about how certain futures contracts and options were priced. I ended up identifying all sorts of pricing discrepancies, and I became an arbitrageur and the youngest member of the Financial Instruments Exchange (FINEX). After trading on the floor and building a brokerage business, I joined what ultimately became Citigroup, where I was the London Metals Exchange Specialist, trading base metals futures, options and derivatives, once again taking advantage of arbitrage opportunities I had uncovered.
I’ve always seen opportunities and discrepancies in commodities, currencies, and culture. Arbitrage exists beyond the basics of supply and demand, but also with respect to cultural inefficiencies; I’m always looking for where, how, and when a new kind of product or brand can capture someone’s imagination, and how something new can bring a heightened sense of cultural relevance to the party. A technical innovation is great, but I think the real magic comes when you can tap into a deeper, more emotional innovation. Technical innovations are like math, but emotional innovations are magic. Here’s a bit of a dated example of what I mean. A small, portable hard drive? That’s a technical innovation. A small, portable hard drive that lets you put thousands of your favorite songs in your pocket? That was the original ipod, and it was an emotional and a cultural innovation, and that’s far more powerful than the practicality of a portable hard drive. The ipod was so special because it was beautiful, functional, simple and elegant, and it was about an amazing UX around music, something people are very passionate about. I feel when you get the magic right, the math ends up taking care of itself—they sure sold a lot of iPods, and the digital music landscape was forever changed. Bringing this line of thinking back to CPG/brands/storytelling, when it came to oral care, everything in the category seemed to solely focus on functional benefits, in other words, the math…and not the magic. The magic is the positive, human part of the opportunity, and I like to think we’re changing the norms and narrative of the category quite a bit with hello—more magic, and more humanity!
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