Brands on the Rise is a regular Ad Age feature spotlighting the marketing and business tactics of successful challenger brands. Read other installments here.
When Craig Elbert’s wife was pregnant with the couple’s first child in 2015, he went on a shopping trip for prenatal vitamins and was quickly confronted with a dizzying array of choices.
He encountered “prenatal vitamins for my wife, vitamins for myself—and it was a feeling of standing in the aisle being overwhelmed,” he said. “What is everything here? Where do I start being skeptical? … What brand should I trust?”
Flash forward to 2016, when Elbert got some of these questions answered by founding and becoming CEO of Care/of, a direct-to-consumer vitamin brand, alongside co-founder Akash Shah as chief technology and product officer.
When Care/of started it was a subscription-based product built partially around an online quiz. Users could log onto the brand’s website and answer questions about their lifestyle, health goals and more to find out what combination of vitamins they should be taking. From there, a set of vitamins in muted millennial pink packaging with that customer’s name in sans serif font would appear on their doorstep.
By November 2020, Care/of had sold a majority stake to Bayer that valued the startup at $225 million. And in 2021, its products hit retail shelves, entering Target stores—and thereby following a trend of DTC brands heading to physical shelves as the U.S. emerged slowly from lockdown.
Below, more on Care/of’s origin story, its marketing strategy and what’s next for the brand.