By Maria Verven
The idea isn’t novel in the retail environment, but it was new to the vape world. The basic concept: develop a brand around the twelve Zodiac signs.
While the devil is in the details, Twelve Vapor got them all right.
Twelve Vapor has amassed a huge following in the vaping community, where it’s sold in over 800 vape shops in 18 countries, including China, France, Indonesia, Malaysia and the U.K.
Packaging with a Punch
The first thing you notice is the packaging: the 20 ml glass bottles are packaged in metal tubes decorated with handdrawn graphics depicting each Zodiac sign, birthstone and one of the four basic elements – air, earth, fire or water. Each package also lists the sign’s core characteristics and offers a brief horoscope.
“We wanted to create a brand that’s personal, that really stuck out and that people would want to look at and grab,” said Paul Michalski, one of three company owners and head of marketing who created all the artwork.
To make it personal, they needed a theme. “We thought: wouldn’t it be great for people to have a personal connection with their vape liquid? Eighty percent of people know what their Zodiac sign is,” Michalski said. “A lot of people check their horoscopes every day.”
For example, I’m a Leo, so my characteristics, printed on the package are: “Kind-Hearted, Energetic, Optimistic, Loyal, Straightforward.”
My horoscope reads, “Leo, we will let you run through our life and we know you will always be there for us. Keep your eyes on the horizon while you reach for all your goals. We will be there to watch your magnificence.” Now I’m hooked. Flattery gets me every time.
My flavor? “A perfect parfait. Fresh raspberries give way to a smooth vanilla yogurt encased in a cinnamon crumble finish. Hints of granola appear throughout the inhale, resolving in an inventive flavor profile.”
Now I’m thinking: how do they know me so well? I eat yogurt every day, and raspberries are my favorite fruit. And that’s how you get hooked on Twelve Vapors.
Matching Zodiacs with Flavors
The first step in developing the flavors was to hold a blind taste testing. The event took place in December 2014 with about 100 vapers to get their feedback on around 110 flavors. Each participant filled out a card with their birthdate and gave feedback on each flavor.
When they put all the data into an Excel worksheet, the owners noticed patterns in the types of flavors that people with the same sign favored.
Lo and behold, “each Zodiac sign actually did have a preferred flavor profile,” said Jon Glauser, another company owner. “So if someone tries the e-liquid for their sign, we know that statistically they’ll like their flavor. And after trying their flavor, people then will try e-liquids that match the signs of their significant other, their family and their friends.”
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The trio continued to work on the flavor formulations from April 2014 until late that year. “We didn’t want to rush anything; flavor is what people attach themselves to,” Glauser said. “We spent a lot of time on reformulation after reformulation. We love mixing flavors; it’s a passion of ours. We might be testing 30 to 40 flavors on any given day.”
Glauser said they always use NicSelect nicotine in their formulations. “We did a lot of trial and error and tried several different brands of nicotine but we were blown away by NicSelect.
“The quality of nicotine has a great impact on taste,” he said. “Your goal is to not taste the nicotine. With NicSelect, the purity is there. It leaves the least stamp on your palate. As a vaper, you get the throat hit, but you don’t get the taste. They have a very consistent product. We have complete confidence in them.”
Twelve Vapor launched in February 2015 at Las Vegas vapor shows to what Glauser said was an “awesome response. We’re really happy because we put so much time, effort and sweat into it,” he said.
“Vaping Saved Our Lives”
Glauser, Michalski and the third owner, Alex Alarshi, grew up together in Buffalo, N.Y. All heavy smokers, they discovered vaping around seven years ago at a local street fair when they passed by a booth selling cigalikes.
“We were intrigued by it; it was a step in the right direction,” Glauser said. “All three of us started vaping. I never thought I could quit smoking; I thought it was going to kill me someday. That little e-cig helped me quit. “We wanted to get a business going based on the mere fact that vaping saved our lives. When you start a business based on something you’re passionate about, you know you’re going to succeed,” he said.
All three men, now in their late 20’s or early 30’s, had prior business experience. Both Glauser and Alarshi owned retail and commercial properties; Michalski had started a graphic design business when he was only 17.
Twelve Vapor is one brand under their parent company, Demand Vape, LLC. The main hub and distribution company, Demand Vape employs 46 people in Buffalo, N.Y., primarily working in manufacturing, shipping and sales.
Wholesale customers connect to Demand Vape through its online portal to purchase Twelve Vapor and other brands that the three owners are developing.
In fact, they just launched another new line of e-liquids in January 2016 called Culture Vapor. Michalski also did all the artwork, which is based on a graffiti theme.
“A lot of vapers are physically active and always on the go; we pay attention to what vapers want and we wanted to appeal to this evolving market demographic,” Glauser said. For the Culture line, they packaged the three e-liquid flavors in a long wide-mouth ‘unicorn’ bottle with a plastic dropper tip that you can turn over and drip right out of the bottle.
“These bottles are really convenient, but hard to present well. We want it to stand out on shelves and be convenient. It’s the little things that make a big difference in this industry. Everything we make is with the end user in mind,” he said.
“We know so many vapers, it’s pretty much our livelihood,” Glauser said. “Every time we make a flavor, at least 60 to 70 people try it. With Culture, the development time wasn’t short. It’s not an easy thing to do and it’s the most important aspect of a product.”
Glauser said Demand Vape is gearing up to be regulated by the FDA and Europe’s Tobacco Products Directive. “We’re really confident that whatever they come out with, we’ll be able to change and adapt,” Glauser said. “We’re always willing to bend and do what’s necessary to come out on the other side; that’ how important this industry is to us.”
Members of SFATA, Demand Vape and its owners have been very involved on the national, county and local level. “It’s important, because people making these laws don’t know or understand these products. It’s our job to educate them,” Glauser said. “We take this seriously because it’s our livelihood.
“I can’t think of another industry I’d rather be involved with,” he said. “This saves lives. What’s great about this industry is we know how to work together. We’re not really competitors; we’re friends. We all want to put our own footprint on it and leave our own legacy.
“We want to be thought of as the guys who push the envelope and bring things to market that haven’t been thought of yet.”
The original “Vaping VampTM,” Maria Verven is a 35- year P.R. veteran and owner of Verve P.R, a marketing firm focused on the vape industry.