I am fascinated, some might say obsessed, by new-ish beauty brands who make it big quick. Brands that come to mind include Living Proof, Kate Somerville, and MoroccanOil. I think about these brands all the time. How did they do it? What is their secret ingredient; the secret sauce? What can I learn from them? What are they doing that I am not doing? I wish there were Harvard case studies on all of these brands.
Today, at Premiere Orlando, I spent so much time at the MoroccanOil booth I think I got as close to a case study as I can. The hair industry is still somewhat foreign to me, but even as a lay consumer in the world of shampoos, colors (I know not to say dyes anymore), extensions, and tools, I can tell MoroccanOil is IT. I walked the entire floor of the show, and nowhere else did I feel the energy, excitement, and yes, happiness, than I did at their booth. And I went back three times. To try, and try, and try some more to understand their magical formula to success.
Here are my initial observations.
- The booth space dedicated to hair demonstrations was almost nil. Two salon chairs at two corners, hardly the focus, with demonstrations of blow-drys and curling. This was in complete contrast to most of the other booths that featured elaborate stages with extensive seating, multiple models on stage in various stages of dress, and multiple stylists in various stages of creation.
- The women representing the brand were classy and fully clothed. Again, this being a hair show, female anatomy was both prominent and visible, as one of my male friends put it, all “tits and tans.” By contrast, the women at the MoroccanOil booth were dressed in conservative skirt suits, still of course sporting the stiletto heels that are an industry standard (in muted colors, and no platforms). Elevating the look of the industry, if you ask me.
- Don’t think however that this conservatively dressed salesforce means that the brand lacks sex appeal. The music was loudest in that booth, while sexy hair and runway models walked the catwalk in skimpy outfits on two huge TV screens. It is a hair show, after all.
- Then there is the omnipresent MoroccanOil bag. At each corner of the booth a smiling woman is handing one to anyone who passes by, no need to stop by the booth or seem interested in the product. If you want a bag, you can have a bag. And a nice bag it is, containing some product literature and the two hero products that made this brand, MoroccanOil Treatment and MoroccanOil Treatment Light. Leaving the show tonight, 3 out of 4 people were carrying this bag.
With these initial observations, I had to go back and look, learn, some more. I spoke to three representatives, all who were perfectly nice and knew the product, and never even looked down at my badge to see where I was from, or asked me about my business. (There is nothing I hate more than being treated one way or another based on my badge). So here is what I learned by speaking to their brand ambassadors:
- The product is not discounted at the show. All individual products are sold at the same price as you would get them any other day.
- The show specials are the kits that they offer, 10 total. Three of these kits are travel kits, the other are beautiful product assortments in various vanity bags. These are only available at shows.
- They change these kits once a year, i.e. the kits will be the same for every 2013 show MoroccanOil participates in, changing in January 2014.
- Wholesale prices are 50% of recommended retail prices.
- The top sellers are their MoroccanOil Treatment products (the original and the Light). [This confirms what my board tells me during every board meeting: figure out your hero product and build your brand on that one product.]
I was so intrigued I had to do some online research. Here is what I found, and did not find.
- The story starts with Chilean-born Carmen Tal, who had a disastrous hair treatment at a salon in Tel Aviv. Somehow that disastrous hair treatment led to an argan oil treatment, which so convinced her of the benefits of this ingredient she bought (with her now ex-husband) a small Israeli company that imported argan oil from Morocco. Wanting to bring this product to the US, she started with her hero product, MoroccanOil Treatment, and grew the brand from there.
- She started her brand about six years ago.
- In our seemingly ingredient-obsessed industry, the full ingredient listing is not listed on the official company website or in the brand’s beautiful product brochure.
- The ingredients are, however, listed on the products included in the goodie bag. The original MoroccanOil Treatment ingredients are (as listed on the label): Cyclomethincone. Dimethicone. Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil (Argan oil). Fragrance (Parfum). Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract. Buthylphenyl Methylpropional. Benzyl Benzoate. Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone. CI 26100 (D&C Red no. 17). CI 47000 (D&C Yellow no. 11). I have never had an issue with synthetic ingredients in personal care products (as I like to remind some of my own clients, most modern-day medications are synthetic, and aren’t we glad they exist; or, poison ivy is natural, but does that mean you want it in your moisturizer?). Nonetheless, it still amazes me that the core of this product formula is silicone derivatives. Nothing new or natural there…
- As of this post, MoroccanOil has 6,127 followers on Twitter, 76,643 fans on Facebook, and a Klout score of 61 (Klout scores measure one’s overall online influence). [In comparison, Aveda has 48,756 followers on Twitter, 899,073 Facebook fans, and a Klout score of 81.]
What is the secret to MoroccanOil’s success? I still don’t know. And I will continue to obsess over it.