Beyond the Conventional: Dirty Lemon & Zak Normandin’s Story

Zak Normandin is the first to admit he isn’t the healthiest person, but he’s human–he loves coffee and going out for drinks just as much as the rest of us. Yet his focus on the health and wellness space with the Instagram-popular detox drink Dirty Lemon, comes as no surprise given his background. Before Dirty Lemon came about, Zak Normandin lived and breathed advertising, building creative refresh and packaging efforts to help promote brands. His passion in organic health was inextricably tied to his daily 9-to-5, where he founded the kids-oriented natural snack line called Little Duck Organics. But he needed a change–and had a surprisingly great idea after trying another disgusting Master Cleanse. Enter Dirty Lemon – a detoxifying, charcoal-infused lemonade beverage that puts the focus of detoxing not on restricting your lifestyle choices, but on achieving a healthier balance while getting the best of all worlds.

Building a Relevant Brand

“I’ve only done one cleanse ever, and I was the most miserable version of myself during that time,” Zak says as he explains his initial idea to start Dirty Lemon. He started thinking about why detoxes were so adamant about restricting food intake, and noticed a trend among his friends. It turns out,

“back when everyone was doing cleanses, you’d go out and have a pizza or a couple drinks, even with a detox plan. It’s all about balance. But that story wasn’t really being told or marketed towards consumers that way, and that was really the impetus for me and Dirty Lemon as a brand.”

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Zak knew there was potential in realizing people wanted to eat what they wished, without compromising their health. So, he turned towards social media to better understand his audience and recognize how to fulfill the diverse needs of the millennial consumer.

“Our thought process was that if we could create a high-quality health food product we could stand behind, and we paired that with marketing that appeals to what modern consumers are looking for, then we’d have a really interesting brand proposition,” says Zak. “So we just took a little bit of a spin on products and formulas that have been available in the natural food section for a very long time, and that have been prescribed by naturopaths but haven’t necessarily been marketed properly.”

His advertising career came in handy by allowing him to understand and assess trends on Instagram that could drive marketing efforts. This included the popularity of posts featuring models eating pizza, which were the most-liked and drove some of the highest levels of engagement– so he built his brand on the aspirational hype.

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Saying #yestomore

Dirty Lemon works best as a way of helping along your body’s natural detoxification process. The drink contains activated charcoal to flush away toxins and minimize a weekend hangover. It also contains crushed ginger to help stomach digestion, dandelion root to stimulates liver function, and lemon juice for its alkalizing properties as a good natural cleanser for your system. Put all these ingredients together and you have, as Zak says, “this idea of a balanced and healthy way to detox, rather than extreme dieting or drinking juice for a week or whatever, which no one enjoys doing.”

What all this boils down to in the end is a simple approach to health – including a detox drink as a weekly addition to your diet to lessen the impact of a hangover, or to boost your body’s immune performance. It’s a philosophy based on welcoming carbohydrates and understanding your cravings. In describing the brand’s message and social media presence, which has partly been driven by the rise of Dirty Lemon’s unique tag #yestomore, Zak said,

“In the wellness space, there’s a lot of conversation by brands about restriction, like changing your lifestyle to meet the program or product it may be. The hashtag is the inverse of all of that; we’re saying most of the millennial generation is very conscious of their health. Sure, they’re going to workout classes but also, they’re going to get drinks at night or eat a burger. It’s more like ‘stop saying no to things, and live a little.’”

To drive this message home, Dirty Lemon has two Instagram accounts dedicated to this concept, the first being the brand’s profile; the second, Girls with Gluten. Girls with Gluten was a funny pun side-project meant to somewhat mock the sudden trend that was going gluten-free regardless of actual necessity. Showing the reality of how people, especially women, ate, and could eat, was the beginning of something great. It took off like wildfire. In place of fad diets and intense weight-loss tips, Zak had brought a sense of guilt-free reality to the conversation on living healthily and happily. As he saw it, the conversation finally shifted a bit from a mentality focused on statements like “I don’t eat this” to a more light-hearted, honest “everyone loves good food” idea.

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A Modern Way to Detox

This emphasis on finding a balance between living healthy and still living life to the fullest led to Dirty Lemon’s unconventional 24/7 instant-accessibility for customers. However busy a customer was, whether it be 5pm or 2am, they could reach Dirty Lemon to get their detox fix, using the sites built-in text messaging ordering platform. That way, customers could instantly order a 6-pack of Dirty Lemon detox, or easily ask questions about the product. For Zak, there was a  need to innovate beyond the brick-and-mortar grocery stores he worked with in the past. As a result, Dirty Lemon is now available for shipping internationally, rather than having a product dependent on store distribution.

Such out-of-the-box thinking extends far beyond how the company does business; it is also reflected in Dirty Lemon’s recent expansion beyond their single standard detox drink, into formulas which help with skin/hair health, sleep, and energy levels.

The new drinks, each of which comes in at just ten calories, have the same familiar lemon flavor, with small tweaks for each. For example, the skin/hair beverage includes a hint of cayenne pepper, which works as an anti-inflammatory. Meanwhile, the drink intended to help boost energy is dashed with lime juice for a citrus zest.

His Takeaway

Starting a successful brand from the ground up takes time, but Zak is a pro at branding strategy and product execution. He found a niche in the natural health space, and worked hard to meet his millennial consumers’ needs. Yet his days are undeniably packed as an established entrepreneur. Despite the long hours and lack of sleep, though, Zak has found a way to make his health a priority and work with his busy lifestyle. At 32, Zak says he has grown to understand his body and how his day-to-day life ultimately shapes how he feels on a regular basis.

“What you put into your body, how much you put into your body, how much sleep you’re getting,” he says, pinpointing the key components of reflecting on your health and living well. “It’s really just being aware and understanding how different factors in your life affect your wellness, and how that encompasses all areas of your life.”