I love the products and the packaging. I love the retail experience and marketing. I love the story. I love my latest (and most expensive ever) £12 shower gel. I loathe the thought that L’Oreal will buy the company sooner or later.
There are times when you can just feel a brand slowly gathering momentum and stature. L’Occitane is one of them. Last week I was having post-dinner drinks with the ad agency team and as usual the talk moved to marketing, communication and brands. I mentioned L’Occitane. There were 5 of us and three pair of eyes lit up at the mention. We had all tried the products via the same channel (hotel bath room), enjoyed the product experience and converted to the brand soon-after. We are all brand advocates now (this post on my blog being an example of that). And by the way not even a passing mention of the price which is usually 5 times the mainstream brands and at least twice of equivalent Body Shop products.
Everyday indulgence doesn’t get more private than this and thus the high price frankly doesn’t matter increasingly to a significant number of consumers, especially given the global wealth boom. Also the price is high in relative terms (to the mainstream brands), but is still low in absolute outlay compared to other “indulgence”/luxury products.
Some observations in no particular order :
1· The difference between the “corporatised” website of Body shop, Kiehls ( both owned by L’Oreal) and L’Occitane is revealing. The US website of former leads with 2 for 1 offers and home fragrance oils. L’Occitane leads with evocative product stories and “Our philosophy” is the first icon at the top of the site. Body shop which started and became successful on the back of a strong ideology/philosophy, seems to have lost its soul. One struggles to find the “our philosophy” or “our story” click on the front page. The “values” icons are at the bottom of the front page. You can perhaps relate to my angst at the thought of L”Oreal getting their hands onto L’Occitane (Clarins already has a 10% stake).
2 · It’s a £250mn business today with 700 stores in 65 countries. It can easily double in 2 years especially given the fact that they seem to be ahead of Kiehls and Body shop in focusing on China. Amongst the three, they are the only one with a Chinese website. Read the story behind the brand and its growth here.
3.The L’Occitane hotel program is a well thought through. It not only delivers product trial but also establishes the brand’s cachet via selective placement. It seems only the top range rooms in a hotel get L’Occitane products. In the non-executive floors in the Hong Kong Shangri-la you get AIGNER products (tried often, never felt a connection or wow). The same exclusivity applies to in-flight toilet kits. I first experienced the brand about 4 years back via the British Airways first class in-flight toilet bag. The business class had Molton Brown goodies.
4· The branding of their anti-aging range launched recently- IMMORTELLE– is great. It communicates the benefit, is consistent with the brand character and is actually a key ingredient in the products. The product stories in general are enchanting and live up to the brand sign-off “A true story”.
5. I couldn’t find any other brand or product, on the 22 pages dedicated to beauty products in the Dragon Air shopping catalog, which was so explicitly focused on “natural” ingredients. The rest were all pouting scientific mumbo-jumbo e.g DNA shield, Nuerowhite X, Cellular time release, Cellular dynamic hydration mask.
6. The product labelling in Braille is a good example of social responsibility and commitment to a cause.
Outstanding products, beautiful packaging, marketing with integrity, soul and flair. Bravo!