TOKYO — Molton Brown is flexing its perfumer muscles with the launch of a new luxury fragrance line, inspired by the famous scents of its bath and body care offering. The company’s president, Mark Johnson, said he wants people to think of the brand first and foremost as a fragrance brand in the future.
“The reality of it is that we have always been perfumers,” Johnson said. “But because we’ve provided a sensorial experience of fragrance through our shower gels and our hand washes, we fell into the trap that consumers and industry partners all thought of us as a bath and body brand.”
Now, the label has taken its fragrance credentials and translated them into a series of rich, unique unisex scents created under the notion of “by individuals, for individuals.” Johnson said perfumers were given complete creative freedom, and the brand does not engage in benchmarking, panel testing or similar methods of honing and selecting scents.
“Why is this important? It’s because we believe that panel testing, that limiting of creativity, that reworking of fragrances frankly lead to the lowest common denominator of fragrance and everything smelling alike,” the executive said.
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Johnson called the fragrance release “arguably the biggest, most important launch that we’ve had in a decade.”
Molton Brown has been a member of the Kao Group, the Japanese conglomerate that also includes brands such as Kanebo, Bioré, Jergens and Curel, since 2005. Last year, Kanebo’s president and representative director Yoshihiro Murakami, who is also an executive officer of the Kao Group, announced that Molton Brown was one of 11 global brands that the company would focus on strengthening under its new strategy.
“Coming out of this year, we should be at around 55 points of growth in the past five years,” Johnson said. “I may be biased, but I think Molton Brown is one of the highest potential growth brands under the Kao umbrella.”
Having been identified by Kao as a brand with global potential, the parent company is now investing in Molton Brown in a way that it has not done before.
“In the past we would have looked at the Molton Brown expansion as perhaps a hotel channel in one region, maybe a travel retail channel in another region, but this is the first time we’ve been in a position where we can build a true, multichannel, connective retail experience in each of the regions around the globe that we’re in,” Johnson said. “It’s the first time we’ve had the ability to become a truly global brand.”
To that end, Molton Brown is expanding its operations in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Seiichi Okura, general manager of Molton Brown Asia and president and representative director of Molton Brown Japan, said by 2025 the company aims to reach a level of sales in Asia that are four times what they were in 2018.
The initial fragrance line is set to launch in September and includes 12 fragrances of eau de parfum (100-ml. bottles retailing for 20,000 yen or 110 pounds) and 15 of eau de toilette (50-ml. bottles retailing for 10,000 yen or 60 pounds). Along with the products themselves, Molton Brown is also launching a new store concept with a fragrance station, as long as a fragrance finder that will be available both online and in stores and helps customers find the fragrance that most closely matches their personality.
There is also a sustainability element to the launch, as the fragrances will be the first Molton Brown products that are refillable in some stores. Johnson said this is only the beginning of the brand rethinking its environmental impact, which is especially great in terms of the hotel and airline amenities it provides.
“We need to come up with innovative solutions for limiting the impact of single use plastics,” he said.
Between its product offerings, its store concepts and its digital marketing initiatives, Molton Brown — like many other companies — is shifting its focus from maximizing the number of transactions it logs to maximizing customer lifetime value.
“We’ve spent so much time over the past four or five years putting that foundation in place, so it’s just so pleasing to sort of see it start to work, and see consumers really engaging with and understanding and appreciating where we’re going with the brand,” Johnson said.