Commodity is encouraging Sephora customers to make fragrances their way.
This story first appeared in the April 10, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Last month, the specialty beauty retailer rolled out so-called mix bars filled with eight of the niche fragrance brand’s scents to 35 locations, where shoppers can whip up fragrance cocktails from a variety of ingredients (in Commodity parlance, an Old Fashioned is concocted from its Mimosa and Whiskey scents, for example) or take their scents neat. Outside of the mix bars, almost 100 Sephora doors across the U.S. and Canada carry Commodity’s two best-selling scents, Moss and Gold.
“What we were looking to do at Sephora was an interactive experience that other brands don’t currently offer. For us, it is about collections and cocktails, and finding your own unique scent,” said Ash Huzenlaub, chief executive officer of Commodity Goods Inc., adding, “Traditionally, products in fragrance are marketed by highly paid personalities. We wanted this to be about you, the consumer, and not about any famous actress or actor.”
Commodity has entered Sephora at a time when niche fragrance brands have been bright spots in a fragrance segment that, on the whole, has lost luster. Artemis Patrick, senior vice president of merchandising for Sephora, said, “Sephora has a rich history of being a champion for new and uniquely differentiated brands. The Commodity philosophy and approach to personalized fragrance experiences, via their singular and ‘cocktail’ concept, is dynamic in strategy while being fun for our fragrance clients.”
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Sephora initially contacted Commodity two years ago before the brand’s products were even available. The brand had initiated a Kickstarter campaign that would ultimately raise more than $56,000, nearly triple its goal, and launch its scent-tailoring concept. The concept is centered upon a fitting kit or a sample pack of Commodity’s range of fragrances that customers can buy online for $24 and experiment with prior to settling on their favorite scents and receiving full-size bottles.
Huzenlaub noted Commodity’s Web site is still at the core of its business. Customers, who break down roughly 55 percent female and 45 percent male, order three fragrances on average online. Scents are priced from $24 for 10 ml. to $99 for 100 ml. The brand’s smaller sizes are its most popular.
Commodity has concentrated its efforts on 10 fragrances (the original assortment contained 20) across its black and white lines. Fragrances in the black line tend to be moodier and fragrances in the white line tend to be lighter, but there is no specific gender delineation.
Introduced to Commodity last October, Huzenlaub, managing director of growth management firm Ashco Group in London, said, “I saw the Kickstarter video and, from there, went out to L.A. and met with the [founding] team. I was really fascinated with what they were doing. I drew parallels to Sweet Leaf, [a tea brand sold to Nestle in 2011 that he previously worked with]. Based on what I saw from the response through social media, this was going to be something exciting.”
Commodity was created by Los Angeles marketing agency Ferroconcrete as an accessible, modern, digitally driven fragrance brand. Members of the brand’s founding team include Jason Yeh, currently a member of Samsung’s Think Tank Team; Yo Santosa, creative director at Ferroconcrete; Sung Noh, engineer at Ferroconcrete and chief technology officer at Commodity, and Owen Gee, a former Ferroconcrete art director who serves at Commodity’s chief creative officer.
Commodity has attracted an audience of around 9,700 followers on Instagram that Huzenlaub described as extremely engaged with the brand. Followers regularly post pictures of the brand’s products, showcasing its classic, simple design sensibility. “There has been zero advertising. This has all been people telling their friends on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Other industries that I have been involved in, traditional advertising is needed to move the needle and here it just takes communicating on social media,” Huzenlaub said.
He said private entrepreneurs have funded Commodity, although he wouldn’t reveal the names of those entrepreneurs or the brand’s financial results. The brand plans extensions in the beauty and home categories with fragrance remaining its prime focus. Asked about Commodity’s performance at Sephora so far, Huzenlaub disclosed, “We have had great numbers.” Industry sources estimated that the line could do $2 million to $3 million at retail in its first year on counter.