Le Labo’s Approach to Branding: Crafting an Identity Through Experience, Community and Authenticity

  On June 1, the salon fragrance brand Le Labo finally opened its first store in mainland China, located in Shikumen, Xintiandi, Shanghai. According to the store information, the new store is crowded with people, and the queue time at the cash register is more than 30 minutes. Most of the products have been sold out by 12 noon on the same day.
  Le Labo is a brand that has solved the commercialization problem of salon fragrance very well. On the one hand, it has never lost money since the first 3 months after the opening of the brand’s first store; it was acquired by Estee Lauder in 2014 and was evaluated as “one of the most promising perfume brands”; In the fourth quarter, when the performance of all business segments of the group fell sharply, its net sales grew strongly. On the other hand, it has created an exclusive experience of “every bottle of perfume is blended on-site in the store”, which has a large number of fans all over the world. Even if a single bottle of some products is priced at more than 700 US dollars, it is also sold soon after the release. sold out. And to get such a result, it has almost never advertised.
  When and what did Le Labo do right to make it one of Estée Lauder’s most profitable brands?
  After detailed research, I found that Le Labo has actually fully implemented the potential energy play of lifestyle brands: by creating scarcity, turning itself into a symbol of a certain group of people, creating and leading a lifestyle; The genderless, vegan, and wabi-sabi cultures that are respected by the society are bound to strengthen the spiritual attributes of the brand; aim at the highest level of self-realization Maslow needs, create a unique product experience, guide users to actively participate, and further deepen the relationship between the brand and users relation.
  Next, I will analyze the founding team, brand positioning, product creation, retail experience and other aspects.
Two senior fragrance practitioners make perfume with the logic of luxury goods

  Background: The rise of niche perfumes in the United States
  Before the 21st century, the American fragrance market was flooded with mass perfumes. At that time, the logic of most fragrance brands was to conduct market research first, find the fragrance that might sell best, then mass-produce it, match it with gorgeous packaging, conduct large-scale marketing, and use the celebrity effect to sell the product.
  However, with the spread of globalization on a large scale, excessive commercialization has stimulated a group of people’s reverse needs, and with the rise of postmodernism, the public has held high the banner of “individualism”, advocating freedom and fully deconstructing , doubt everything, and oppose authority. Ben Gorham, founder of Byredo, a salon fragrance founded in 2006, once said: “In the past, people bought perfume to adapt to the environment and make themselves part of the group, but now the situation is the opposite, and the fragrance must help them express their unique personality. “This cultural atmosphere is also reflected in the fragrance market. Euromonitor data shows that since 2000, the sales of popular perfumes (including celebrity perfumes) in the United States have been declining, and the volume has been cut in half within a few years, while the scale of niche salon fragrances has begun to rise.
  At that time, New York, as the fashion capital of the world, gathered all kinds of cultures. The city was extremely inclusive, and each style could find a place under the premise of retaining cultural characteristics. In addition, people are used to novelty and are not afraid to try it. More importantly, there are a large number of fashion media in New York, and their reports have great influence worldwide. So, in 2006, Eddie Roschi and Fabrice Penot left their positions in the high-end fragrance business of L’Oreal Group, which they had worked for many years, and opened Le Labo’s first store in New York.   Team: The two founders of Le Labo, a high-level L’Oreal factory factory startup, have profound backgrounds, basic knowledge of chemistry, and business literacy. They have worked in the industry’s top fragrance companies for more than 10 years, and have also participated in the creation of products from 0 to 1 in high-end fragrance brands
The whole process, and when they left, they had reached the top level and mastered many channels and media resources.
  Eddie Roschi, one of the founders, worked for Firmenich (one of the world’s top four flavor suppliers) after graduating from university. As an account director, he is responsible for the sales of functional fragrance products such as shampoos and detergents in North Africa and the Middle East, and he has great business autonomy. After working at Firmenich for 10 years, he went to London to study for an MBA (Master of Business Administration), and in 2000 he moved to L’Oreal and started working in Giorgio Armani’s fragrance department. It was here that he met his future partner, Fabrice Penot. The main content of their work is to develop new perfume products, including determining product packaging, communicating with perfumers, publicity and distribution, etc.
  Due to the greater emphasis on teamwork in large companies, it is often difficult to promote the process. At that time, the biggest feeling of the two founders was that although the professional ability was getting stronger and stronger, the creativity was always diluted by some factors, and many people came to tell them “you shouldn’t do this”. They also complained about the fragrance market at that time. In their view, the industry is too “gutty” and creativity often gives way to more certain business results. But in their hearts, creation comes first.
  Under the combined effect of these factors, they decided to resign and start a business, challenge the existing business model, and make a perfume that can re-excite the market. Different from the commercial perfumes that were flooding the market at that time, what they wanted to do was a “luxury perfume”.
  Logic: Craftsmanship comes first and respects creation.
  Under normal circumstances, luxury brands will not directly say how good their products are. The logic is that craftsmanship comes first. They must talk about ingredients and raw materials, who discovered them, and how these people Incorporate your own story into the product. Based on this, Le Labo tried to amplify the work value of the perfumer. In the words of Eddie Roschi, “This is the sexiest part of perfume”.
  In order to ensure the quality of perfume, Le Labo gives perfumers sufficient creative space and uses better raw materials than ordinary perfumes. They compared the relationship between themselves and the perfumers to “director and photographer”, giving great freedom to the cooperative perfumers. Although the two have worked in Firmenich and Symphony for several years, they never use bidding to select partners, because they feel that it will “kill creativity”. Instead, they choose to cooperate with perfumers they are familiar with for a long time. Avoid a lot of communication costs when working as a team.
  Perfumer Daphne Bugey once shared her feelings of cooperation with the founder: the founder is very professional and can inspire her; the founder has no time limit and knows when to stop; the founder attaches great importance to it The quality of perfume does not care about the cost, she can let her toss those expensive fragrances that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per kilogram; the founder has his own aesthetics, knows what he wants, and does not do external testing after the product comes out, just try it yourself Just know good or bad.
  Take Rose 31, the brand’s first out-of-market fragrance, as an example. It is known as the best-smelling rose fragrance in the world, and it accounted for 60% of the brand’s sales in the early days. The New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr called it “elegant and sensual”.

  The fragrance took 2 years to develop, and when the product was ready, Le Labo opened its first store on Elizabeth Street in NoLita, New York in 2006. In the first store, Le Labo only launched 9 perfumes and 1 candle, and the price of each bottle of perfume was 200 US dollars, which was twice that of many big-name perfumes at that time.
  In order to magnify the value of craftsmanship, Le Labo’s perfumes are modulated on-site. After the user chooses the flavor he likes, the store’s perfumer mixes the essential oil, alcohol, and water according to the proportion and puts it into the bottle.
  At that time, this model was very novel in New York. Le Labo’s first store opened two months later, and the brand achieved balance of payments. Three months after the opening, thanks to the team’s own media resources, “W” magazine and “New York Times” successively reported on Le Labo. Driven by the head media, lifestyle bloggers began to write articles about Le Labo; high-end brands such as the Gramercy Park Hotel in the heart of Manhattan and the lifestyle chain Anthropologie began to seek cooperation with it. Subsequently, Le Labo embarked on a smooth journey of global expansion.
  Expansion: keep the rhythm and cautiously launch new
  products Mass products can drive sales through continuous new products, but in the luxury perfume industry, in the words of Eddie Roschi: “The important thing is not to launch new behaviors, but to release the right products.” From
  2006 From 2010 to now, the number of perfumes of the brand has only increased from 9 to 19, with an average of less than 1 new fragrance per year. In addition to the basic styles, Le Labo also specially launched 14 city-limited fragrance series, which are released every September.
  This series was interpreted by its trainer Campbell as a counter to “the globalization of luxury experience”, because a higher level of luxury experience cannot be obtained by spending money alone. Each Le Labo product is limited to a city, and the user must go to the offline store in that city to buy it, and the price is as high as US$718/100mL.
  Even after being acquired by Estee Lauder in 2014, Le Labo still maintains an independent brand and has autonomy in developing new products and opening new stores. Estee Lauder does not intervene in the front-line business, and mainly plays a role in supporting the independent operation of the brand business at the back end.
  From a commercial point of view, Estee Lauder once asked Le Labo to launch 5 new fragrances every year, but Eddie Roschi told them, “I will not do what you ask.”
Wabi-sabi is more suitable for the spiritual culture of the middle class

  Wabi-Sabi Aesthetics advocates that “Imperfection is Real” and
  the core of the brand is the psychological imprint. The reason why people are willing to wear perfume is not just because it smells good, but because after spraying it, it becomes a representative of a certain idea you espouse.
  The book “Cultural Strategy” mentioned that by establishing a strong association between the brand and the ideology generated by social and historical changes, it can help build brand barriers. To put it simply, the brand takes advantage of specific national culture, historical culture, and even some circle culture, subculture and other forces to promote the brand, so as to increase users’ loyalty to the brand.
  For example, Nike seized the essence of the “American Dream” and proposed that running can bring back the spirit of competition; Apple used the famous Think Different advertisement to pay tribute to those creators who are not satisfied with the status quo. Le Labo is no exception. The two founders are deeply influenced by Japanese Wabi-sabi culture. Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic concept in a broad sense, describing the transient, incomplete beauty of impermanence. It’s more of a feeling than it can be clearly explained, and some critics believe that once explained, the wabi-sabi character starts to lose itself. As the famous Japanese Zen researcher and thinker Suzuki Daizhuo said: “Incomplete forms and defective food can express the spirit better, because too perfect forms tend to make people turn to the form itself and ignore the inner truth.” Perfume
  Market There is never a shortage of exquisite and perfect products, but Fabrice Penot said: “The world needs unreasonable products, because reasonable products and companies are everywhere. Not everyone understands this, but this is what makes Le Labo special. .”

  Gender-free, vegan, a stepping stone for the middle class
  Le Labo’s other two labels are sexism and veganism, which are actually closely related to the “truth” advocated by the brand.
  Until now, mainstream perfumes have been divided into genders: female fragrances are mostly floral and fruity, and male fragrances are mostly woody. But when perfume was born, there was no distinction between male and female fragrances. It was not until the early 20th century that brands discovered that women prefer to buy perfumes, so they developed products based on their preferences, which made the distinction between male and female fragrances clear.
  When Eddie Roschi was asked why Le Labo is genderless, he said: “Gender is just a marketing gimmick for perfume brands. Perfume should be genderless.” Therefore,
  Le Labo’s Rose 31 is a return to the real fragrance industry try. Before its birth, there was no rose fragrance available for men on the market. Rose 31 made this fragrance neutral by adding woody and musk to the top floral fragrance, and turning to amber and cedar in the back. Another fragrance, Santal 33, according to the brand, the ratio of male to female users is exactly 1:1.
  Regarding veganism, Le Labo claimed to be a vegan fragrance when it was created, that is, the products do not contain parabens, animal products, preservatives and artificial colors, etc., and refuse animal testing. Being vegan is not a gimmick. The two founders are both vegetarians. They believe that perfume should be an extension of life. How you treat the world is how your products should treat the world.
  These two concepts, which are very popular in the upper class in the West, are regarded by many fashion groups and beauty groups as a shortcut to acquire customers, and to a certain extent, they have built a preliminary brand image for those who have never been in contact with Le Labo.
  Use products and stores to guide users
  to feel the truth. To be true, in addition to being loyal to the industry and yourself, the key is to awaken the true feelings in the hearts of users. Le Labo has mainly done two things:
  The first is product naming, packaging and price. All perfume products under Le Labo are named after the name of the main raw material + the number of ingredients. The reason for this naming method is that they hope that the name of the perfume can present the original formula, and they don’t want users to be distracted when they see the name and ignore the perfume itself. Similarly, Le Labo’s packaging and prices are also converging, and the logic and naming are similar. They don’t want users to choose perfumes based on bottle body or price.
  The second is the decoration style of the store. Le Labo’s stores are known for their “rough industrial look”. The first store in New York was actually refurbished by the team. Until now, the design of each Le Labo store in the world has been personally supervised by the two founders, and the industrial style has been applied to each store.

  Le Labo is actually the abbreviation of Laboratory (laboratory), so each of its stores is designed as an open perfume laboratory. Walking into any store, users can see the iconic black shelves with perfume models on them, raw materials in beakers, so that they can see the state of raw materials and smell the taste; other key elements are logs Floors, dilapidated walls, open incense consoles, medieval furniture, etc., these bare and rough furnishings will change over time, and this is the imperfect state that Le Labo wants to show users.
  The Shanghai store opened this time is also designed according to this concept. Walking into the first floor, you can see mottled walls, exposed tiles, and old canvas bags with traces of use. The furniture in the lobby is bought by Le Labo from overseas. The antique safe in the corner still bears the name of the past owner. The medicine cabinet is pasted with a handwritten medicinal label, and the display cabinet is from the French post office.
Exclusive interactive experience helps Le Labo increase user stickiness

  Offline: On-site preparation of products, open custom labels
  Le Labo hardly advertises, you will not see it on TV screens or roadside billboards, the main sales channels are more than 150 independent brand stores and some department stores around the world The counter of the store. Its stores are always located in the most popular neighborhoods in the city, where people earn a lot of money and word of mouth is easy to spread.
  In addition, it can also be smelled in high-end hotels around the world, such as Park Hyatt, Fairmont, Edition, etc. In SoulCycle, a high-end gym in North America, members can buy limited travel kits.
  It does not have many consumer-oriented contacts, but the user stickiness is extremely high, and many users will even fly there specially to buy a bottle of the city-limited edition.
  In addition to directly hitting the hearts of users culturally, brands actually exist in real interactions with users. As mentioned earlier, Le Labo’s perfumes are prepared on-site: the brand delivers the essential oils in aluminum cans to the store, and the user walks into the store and finds the flavor that suits them under the guidance of the perfumer. Add distilled water and alcohol in proportion, mix and fill into bottles.
  After adding alcohol to the already stable essence, it will take another 2-3 weeks to stabilize. Therefore, after the user takes the product home, the fragrance will continue to undergo subtle changes, which undoubtedly increases the interaction between the product and the user.
  After completing all the mixing steps in the store, the last experience is to print the label of the perfume bottle in front of the customer. The label is marked with the fragrance type, the name of the operator and the buyer, and the recommended date of use. In principle, there is no expiry date for perfume, but Le Labo specially added a time limit on the label in order to make users pay more attention to the product. In addition, an interesting setting is that the label opens up less than 23 English letters (or 10 Chinese characters), allowing users to customize what they want to say.
  The main staff of the store is the perfumer, called “Soul”, they come from various fields: painters, singers, writers, often pay attention to details, have curiosity, are willing to make friends with customers and cherish this relationship .
  Le Labo has high requirements for “Soul”, and each “Soul” is personally interviewed by the brand’s global general manager and chief creative officer Deborah Royer. During the interview, they will ask in detail what their hobbies are, what they do in their spare time, what their friends think of them, etc., to judge whether they can understand the unique beauty of Le Labo, and sales experience is secondary.
  The offline experience is not limited to perfumes. In Le Labo’s Williamsburg store in New York, the brand cooperated with La Colombe Coffee Roasters to open the first boutique coffee shop, which is the first Le Labo café under the brand.
  The reason why they opened a coffee shop was because the two founders felt that blending coffee and making perfume have the same effect. In line with the characteristics of the perfume, this cafe only serves vegetarian food (oat milk, coconut milk, almond milk, macadamia nut milk), and if the user comes to buy freshly roasted coffee beans, the barista will emboss Le Labo with a stamp on the spot The store logo of café.
  Online: “Eavesdropping” on users’ conversations and letting them publish in newspapers
  In addition to the offline experience, Le Labo also has a very interesting way of interacting with users online. Different from those brands that advertise overwhelmingly, Le Labo tries to keep a certain distance from users, allowing users to find it through word of mouth, and the lengthening process increases the loyalty of users.
  Le Labo’s official account is not updated frequently. The most famous is its Instagram account “Overheardlelabo”, which uses the fonts of old printers to print pictures and publish the chats of users in the store and interesting words written on product labels. .
  The trader behind the Overheardlelabo account is Jesse Margolis. Before cooperating with Le Labo, he successfully created the OverheardLA account. By recording the real life of young people in Los Angeles, he has more than 2.6 million fans on Instagram, and also incubated accounts such as Overheard San Fransico , is a fairly mature operator.
  In addition, the Overheardlelabo team also made a virtual newspaper LE JOURNAL SOCIETY for the brand. It is actually a website page with wild and unconstrained content, including weather, horoscope, wine culture, travel strategies, etc. Each issue has a different theme, and readers are encouraged to contribute their own stories. For example, a Missed Connections column published a letter written by a user named Amos to Shirley. The two were in the process of breaking up. In the letter, Amos recalled their stories with Le Labo fragrance products all over the world, trying to restore their relationship. Such content often hits the heart directly, arouses resonance, and makes people smile, making users the most vivid spokesperson for the brand. In addition to the web version, this virtual newspaper is also printed into a paper version and placed in some Le Labo boutiques stores, and customers can take one away when they walk into the store.
  Such a real recording method further enhances the user experience. For them, they don’t know when their small talk will become one of the brand content, which in turn will deepen their love for the brand. These also become the best UGC (User Generated Content) material.
  When brands try their best to find excellent copywriting, the emotional expression from users’ life is often the most authentic.

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