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Balmy business for Carmex

At the next Icons in Business event, leaders from the popular balm brand will share insight into the history, leadership strategies, and growth of the family-owned and operated Wisconsin company.

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Balm battles

Despite generations of brand loyalty, Carmex also recognized a new to modernize its marketing approach because of an increasingly competitive marketplace.

“The lip balm category is as competitive as it’s ever been,” says Woelbing. “The rise of EOS and Burt’s Bees has really awoken all brands in the set. They have highlighted a number of insights that were not being met by other brands and products, including Carmex.”

According to Woelbing, retailers, and more specifically category buyers, have many more choices of what brand, type, or flavor to put on the shelf. Every year is a new battle to defend current shelf space and present new innovation for winning more space. Like any company that supplies a product or a service, Carmex has to innovate, learn, and execute, ultimately evolving to meet the every changing needs of the customer — retailer and user.

“While we could talk for hours on each of these attributes, the real key is to build a deep culture of improvement with a team of dedicated, competent professionals to face any challenge to the business, both today and in the future,” notes Woelbing.

Thankfully for Carmex, the brand already stands out.

“The main thing that is recognizable about our packaging is the distinctive color yellow that we use on all Carmex products,” says Woelbing. “My grandfather chose to use this color because he liked it and recognized that it stood out on a store shelf. The jars were our first and only form of packaging for the first 50 years. Our original jar formula is softer with a lower melting temperature than many other lip balms, and jars were the most obvious and most easily obtainable form of packaging for my grandfather when he started.

“The squeeze tubes, now our biggest seller, were introduced in 1988 in response to customer requests for a form of packaging that you wouldn’t have to apply with a finger,” Woelbing continues. “Similarly, the sticks were introduced in 1999 in response to our customers asking for both this form of packaging and a product with sunscreen.”

Addictive personality

Carmex might also have another thing going for it, though it’s more perception than reality.

Woelbing is well aware of the long-held rumor among some Carmex users that the product has “addictive” qualities. Asked about it directly, he’s unequivocal in his response.

“This is a rumor that we hear frequently, especially during winter — our busiest time of the year,” Woelbing begins. “We only use the best ingredients, like Ghanaian cocoa butter, natural menthol, and lanolin from Marino sheep from Australia and New Zealand. The quality of the ingredients combined into our unique formula adds up to a product that works exceptionally well. I can assure you that Carmex is not addictive and that all of the ingredients are listed on the label as per FDA requirements.

“When people claim to be addicted to Carmex, what they are experiencing is the natural tendency for one to repeatedly use something that is effective and/or pleasurable,” Woelbing adds. “For example, I say that I am addicted to eating peanut M&Ms and collecting antique motorcycles.”

To hear more about Carmex and the company’s leadership strategies and growth, make plans to attend the next Icons in Business event on Friday, March 16, from 8–9:30 a.m., at the Madison Concourse Hotel. For more information and to register, visit

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.

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