As she prepares for her 25th anniversary in the beauty business next year, Jo Malone CBE is also launching an eponymously named scent, Jo by Jo Loves.
Malone launched Jo Loves in 2011, five years after leaving Jo Malone London which she had sold to the Estée Lauder Companies in 2006. Her goal was to usher in new ways of experiencing fragrance, including sampling scents in a form inspired by tapas. The brand is sold in her London flagship and at select SpaceNK doors. In the U.S., Jo Loves is available online at JoLoves.com/us, Sephora.com and select U.S. Sephora doors.
Here, she discusses the biggest changes she’s seen during her career, why she named her new scent after herself and how listening to some tough talk helped reshape the brand’s marketing efforts.
WWD: Bring us up to date on what you are doing, and plans for your 25th anniversary.
Jo Malone: This September starts the countdown to the 25th anniversary. It begins with the new fragrance [available this week]. I received my CBE [Commander of the British Empire, an upgrade from her previous MBE, Member of the British Empire] at Buckingham Palace. This is pretty serious; I am getting recognized for doing more than just starting a shop. It is very humbling for me.
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WWD: What’s notable about this fragrance, Jo By Jo Loves?
J.M.: Well, first of all, the bottle is red! I wanted to create something for me to celebrate a moment in life and that something big was around the corner. At that point, I didn’t know I was going to receive the CBE. All my life I never celebrated the moments. Now my life is one long line instead of chapters. I did this fragrance for me and the fact that I never quit, I got back and created and I’m still standing. It comes from my heart. And with using my name — you can only do this once. I looked at all different names but this one is me. I hope it is our largest launch, not just for a moment, but I want it to be forever.
WWD: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the fragrance business…what is working and what doesn’t? What’s next?
J.M.: Hopefully I’m around for the next 25! What hasn’t changed is the good, solid heartbeat of good, solid shopkeepers. We have to remember who we are — we are a mighty army that this world loves. Yes, there are few things we’ve gotten wrong, but what I am most impressed with is the army and the movement of the indie brands who are challenging the big corporations to think differently. Their [indies] innovation and their creativity and their means of communication have such a rawness to it. That was how I grew up, in that rawness, and I think along with others we paved the way for many great, wonderful brands. We’re now seeing the fulfillment in the next two generations of an amazing group of people who are changing the landscape of beauty and how we perceive and buy beauty products today — right from distribution, creatives, packaging and how you tell the story.
WWD: Let’s talk about one of those big changes — how you launch a fragrance? It used to take $25 million in advertising alone.
J.M.: The consumer isn’t interested in that anymore. It almost puts them off. People really want to believe in the brands they buy. If you are asking someone to change something — like our paintbrush [Jo Loves launched her Fragrance Paintbrush last year] — you are asking them to travel on a new journey with you. They have to have trust and respect in the integrity of the brand. The paintbrush is changing the industry — others are introducing a fragrance paintbrush.
Another big change is from print to the tech media and how we tell our stories. For me, this has been one of the most challenging. We made a strategic change in our business last year, like pulling a tablecloth off a dining table. We had been doing everything the same way and it just wasn’t working. We took a lot of public relations and marketing outside and asked visionary groups for a different view. We had to listen to some tough talk that we weren’t communicating in the right way. It was cathartic, and we had to trust other people to take these steps. We didn’t care if we tried it and it didn’t work; we didn’t want to go back to playing it safe because playing it safe doesn’t work. We are still tiny, but we are seeing changes in our market share.
WWD: As you expand beyond your very experiential boutique, how can you tell the Jo Loves story?
J.M.: I have taken our fragrance tapas idea on the road in a tapas wagon. I’ve gone to Shanghai, Istanbul, Italy, Paris…into schools [with the wagon]. We find that when you visibly show the story of tapas, people buy into it. When you are doing makeup or skin care it is visible, but with fragrance you have to create that same blueprint. To keep young customers interested, you have to move fast. We’re working on our third generation of the Fragrance Paintbrush. Next year will be the year of collaboration. I will start to tell those stories, but I can’t at the moment. It is exciting to see that at age 53, I’m more than just a bottle of fragrance.