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Mary J. Blige on Nontraditional Marketing

Mary J. Blige is set to turn the traditional fragrance distribution model on its ear this summer with her first fragrance, My Life.

Mary J. Blige is set to turn the traditional fragrance distribution model on its ear this summer with her first fragrance, My Life.

Not only will the entertainer launch the scent exclusively on HSN on July 31, she has an ownership stake in Carol’s Daughter, the beauty company launching her scent — both representing major departures for the prestige fragrance industry, which traditionally licenses celebrity names and sells the products in department and specialty stores.

“I stand behind my music confidently and I stand behind this product confidently because I’m in it,” Blige told attendees at the Summit, where she appeared on a panel with Steve Stoute, chairman and lead investor of Carol’s Daughter, and Mindy Grossman, chief executive officer of HSN. “I will not put my face behind anything I don’t believe in or my name. I’d rather have my good name instead of your money, and my goal is to show women we are in this together.”

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Even the name is significant to the artist, who has won 10 Grammys and sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. “The whole reason for the perfume being named My Life is because that was the album that I began to call on women for help,” said Blige. “So the title, the album and my entire movement in my career has everything to do with why this perfume is called My Life. My entire movement has been about women rising up from the ashes like phoenixes and giving their life, giving themselves a shot and not beating themselves up.” Each bottle sold will mean a $1 donation to the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN), the charity Blige founded with Stoute.

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“When Steve came to me and then I had the incredible honor of meeting Mary and hearing her story, this was like nothing we had done,” said Grossman. “It was emotional, it was real, it was authentic, it spoke to women, it could really use our platform in a very different way. And we’re redefining a channel for an entire business.”

With $3 billion in sales, broadcast to 94 million homes and a highly trafficked Web site, HSN was the right partner, said Stoute.

“The blurring lines of shopping channel has changed — the brand has to define itself, not be defined by the channel that you buy it in,” he said. And, he noted, the traditional creation model is also different here. “It’s not the endorsement aspect of it, it’s the authorship that you have to provide the artist and that’s what I like the best about this model,” he said.

“[You might ask] why would [consumers] buy a fragrance if they can’t smell it?” said Stoute. “And then you start realizing well they’re buying the fragrance because of storytelling.”

Noted Grossman, “We’re looking at it as a 360-degree experience. We sat back and said, ‘What are all the assets that we have that we can bring to life? What can we work with Steve, with Mary, with Carol’s Daughter on? And now can we, in the most immersive way, bring this to life?’” That will include a mini-documentary of Blige’s life, commercials on other channels, a presence at the Essence Music Festival, mobile preordering, direct mail to more than 30 million women — and, of course, Blige herself on HSN promoting her fragrance. “We’re using our Internet and community assets to literally envelope and create the experience around My Life,” said Grossman.

Grossman believes Blige’s story will resonate with consumers, particularly her passion about her charity. “I think getting that message across not just of the fragrance but the philosophy behind it and FFAWN, the belief and empowerment, is important to women,” said Grossman. “And we know that our customer loves the fact that if somebody goes, ‘Wow, you smell fabulous,’ she is now going to be able to tell the entire story.”