How this face mask unexpectedly ended up at the top of review lists
One of the most popular face masks currently on the market isn’t from an apparel or accessories brand. It’s from Vistaprint, a more than 20-year-old company known for its printing services on products like business cards, mugs and postcards. Initially as a part of a program to meet the needs of the small businesses it works with, Vistaprint rolled out an adjustable face mask product in April, shortly after the pandemic had forced many consumers into lockdown. The company also sells full face shields. A portion of the proceeds are donated to small businesses in need.
“We realized a large portion of small businesses, but also everyone in the world, was going to have a pretty big need for things like shields and masks, and they needed them at scale and to be a product they wanted to be part of their lives,” says Ricky Engelberg, a former Nike executive who joined Vistaprint as chief marketing officer last year. “We looked at our overall footprint and realized we can make [masks] at scale.”
Engelberg says his time at Nike, where he worked on experience innovation, helped inform the process of designing a mask best-suited for consumer needs. The Vistaprint masks, which at $13 for kids and $18 for adults are slightly more expensive than models from competitors, have an articulated chin, adjustable nose wire and adjustable ear loops.
Vistaprint worked with digital agency Work & Co on the website design and masks themselves. The challenge was introducing an item not typically part of the product lineup in an easy-to-find place on the site. Work & Co designed 12 of the prints in the original collection of 20 masks. Vistaprint also worked with Los Angeles-based Champ.
“Our goal and involvement is how to launch this experience and make sure the product imagery is in tip-top shape,” says Rachel Bogan, partner, product management at Work & Co. “The masks are designed so people get excited.”
Several consumer-focused sites, including Wired, New York Magazine’s The Strategist, USA Today and PopSugar, have included Vistaprint in their rankings of the best face protections on the market.
"We tested it and found that the adjustable ear loops, bendable-wire nose strip, stretchy fabric, and an added lower section that hugs your chin makes this mask fit several different face shapes securely and comfortably,” wrote the Strategist in a review. “It comes in lots of different patterns and passes the all-important light test, too.”
Last month, Vistaprint promoted its new product with a 30-second spot called “This Is Not a Mask.” In the spot, people are shown pursuing activities like skateboarding, gardening and socializing. “This is not mask. This is confidence. It’s for getting out and working anywhere other than home,” people in the spot say. “This is for solidarity. It’s for opening the door to a friend and keeping the doors open to your favorite places.” The spot will also air on the NBA’s opening night.
“No one wants to see the world in masks forever,” says Engelberg. “But in this timeframe, it’s so important that people are comfortable with the masks they have and excited for them and still able to be themselves.”
Earlier in July, Vistaprint introduced a customization program that Engelberg expects to be very popular. Consumers can design their own masks or work with Vistaprint’s team on prints with school logos, sporting teams or patterns of their own designs. Next month, Vistaprint will announce new brand collaborations as well.
“Customization has really taken off,” says Bogan, noting an uptick in site traffic. “We wanted to bring a great mask to market, great designs, and now giving businesses and consumers the tools to create their own masks for their families, businesses, schools and organizations is really powerful.”
Hear more about how Vistaprint is changing operations to meet consumer needs at Ad Age’s Small Agency Conference, a virtual event taking place Aug. 3-5. Buy your ticket here.