Making it in a world that loves all things shiny, new and now isn’t easy. Indeed it can seem almost impossible for a business to maintain longevity, keeping the consumer’s eye before it darts off to the next best thing.
In the fragrance market, this is especially true. Hundreds of fragrances are launched every year and, in an overly saturated market like this, it takes more than a sexy new campaign or glitzy celebrity product endorsement to make a company not only stand out but also endure.
Yet, when the new wears off and the old shines through, as it inevitably will, that’s where the magic happens. And British luxury fragrance brand Molton Brown is the proof.
One of the original trailblazers of beauty, the prestigious fragrance brand began in 1971 with Michael Collis and Caroline Burstein, a pioneering husband and wife team, hand-pouring natural haircare products in the basement of their renowned salon on South Molton Street in Mayfair. Herbal formulations and captivating fragrances laid the solid foundation it continues to thrive upon today.
“Light-years ahead of their time, our founders made sustainability the very core of their philosophy,” Molton Brown Global President Mark Johnson says. “They used refillable packaging, carefully sourced local ingredients and took a stance against animal testing before it became mainstream. Today, we aim to carry on that mission, becoming an even more sustainable brand over the next three years. We firmly believe that luxury and sustainability should go hand in hand.
“We are investing in resources to make sure we are building a sustainable business in a truly meaningful way for Molton Brown,” he continues. “We see this as our opportunity to reclaim our pioneering roots and rewrite the rules of luxury for the future.”
As well as a commitment to being eco-conscious, a complete revamp of its stores is front-of-mind, putting priority on fragrance and the customer experience. “We recognised a need to redefine the role of our physical estate,” he says. “This led us to focusing on experience and service, thus providing customers new reasons to visit our stores.”
Its “fragrance first” pilot concept store features an intriguing display of the brand’s legacy, infused with a contemporary flair. Here, an interactive Fragrance Bar designed by London-based agency Dalziel & Pow is the focal point. Crafted using handpainted marble forms meant to reflect Molton Brown’s 1970s heritage, the semi-spherical bar beautifully showcases the individual fragrances across the range.
Beyond the eye-catching design, it’s the innovative Fragrance Finder that completely steals the show. “Our personalised fragrance consultation tool places the customer at the centre of the discussion,” Mark explains.
“Instead of starting from the traditional and more complicated olfactive preference approach, we simply ask our customers about themselves without asking them to think about fragrance. At the end of the journey, they are matched with a fragrance that is best suited to their unique personality.”
This individualisation is a notion the brand identifies with wholeheartedly and has been the driving force behind its recent advertising campaign for its New Guard Perfume Collective – “Made by individuals for individuals”.
“Our personalised fragrance consultation tool places the customer at the centre of the discussion.”
It’s here the brand celebrates the diverse perfumers with whom they collaborate closely, bringing them from behind the scenes to share their inspirational stories, such as those of Jacques and Carla Chabert, Master and Senior Perfumers at Fragrances Essentielles, with whom Molton Brown has been partnering for over 25 years. And it’s also here where Molton Brown establishes the human link between the perfumer and wearer.
“We are connecting the online and in-store to provide a seamless customer journey,” he says. “A lot of time and resources have been invested in understanding our customers and how they behave. We’re using technology to make our in-store and online interactions more personal. It’s a way for us to build convenience and to remove any friction in the overall customer experience.”
Molton Brown is also rewarding its loyal customers with incentives. Thanks to its optimised marketing and data platform, the brand can now tailor and personalise communications to each of its customers. “It’s helping us become a brand that is more relevant to the customer, ultimately growing customer lifetime value,” Mark says.
“We have programs in place now that nurture our VIP customers with exclusive events, product reviews and bespoke rewards, increasing engagement and brand sentiment. Now, we can also connect with them on their birthdays and even re-engage lapsed customers with compelling rewards.”
This innovative mindset and authenticity have been essential to the company’s sweet-smelling success. Molton Brown is known for pushing the boundaries of perfumery while blunting tradition. “We like going against the grain,” Mark asserts.
“We’re always trying to stay ahead of the curve – innovation is part of our DNA. From our formulae to our ingredients and services, we’re never following the trend. Instead, we continually unearth the best and unexpected ingredients, creating statement fragrances and new sensorial experiences.”
"We work with suppliers who hold similar values to ours – an uncompromising, made-in-England quality that’s also sustainable."
Of course, the luxury brand can’t do it alone. Mark credits the company’s employees, business partners and suppliers for helping it survive through the tough times – hello, Brexit – and thrive in the good. “We encourage feedback and give our teams access to top management through open forums to discuss their ideas,” he says.
“It’s the same with our business partners, whom we meet with face to face and give a voice to. We form relationships based on trust with suppliers who hold similar values to ours – an uncompromising, made-in-England quality that’s also sustainable.”
With nearly 50 years under its belt, Molton Brown has become a respected name around the world and is a proud holder of a Royal Warrant. While its heart remains in London with a flagship shop on Regent Street, the brand continues to expand its presence worldwide.
As of now, its high-quality lifestyle products, including bath and shower gels, handwashes, haircare products and exquisite fragrances, can be found in places including the US, Middle East, Japan, Mexico, South Africa and around Europe – a list that continues to grow.
“Our sights are set on international expansion, continually building our presence overseas,” Mark says. “We are proactively targeting key strategic markets in Europe, Latin America and Asia with a pipeline across our multiple channels. Doing this will help us protect the brand and continue to build upon our legacy as pioneers of sensorial experience.”
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