How Jo Malone Has Smelled the Sweet Scent of Success – Twice

Jo Malone

Joanne was born in 1963 and grew up in a council house in Kent, England. Her father, Peter, was a painter – her mother, Elaine, was a beautician. As a child, school was difficult for her as she was severely dyslexic. It was for a different reason, however, that she left school at the age of fourteen. She left school to work and look after her mother, who had suffered a stroke. She worked in a local floral shop as well as helping to keep her mother’s beauty business viable.

Joanne loved the scents at the florist. At home, while working in the beauty business, she began to create her own fragrances combining various flowers with grated Camay soap. One of her creations was a ginger and nutmeg bath oil, which she began giving as a thank you to her customers. One customer loved the oil so much that she ordered 100 bottles to be used as a place settings at a party she was hosting. Shortly after that party, 86 of the guests contacted her to buy more oil.

At 19, she had married Gary Wilcox. A surveyor, he quit his job to become Joanne’s business manager. His business sense, combined with her talent for creating unique and appealing fragrances, led to the fast growth of the business. Gary found a retail location and they opened their first store at 154 Walton St. in London – it was 1993. On the first day the store was open, a man walked in offering Joanne 1 million British pounds for her company – she declined.

The business grew quickly. Joanne’s scents – in candles, oils creams and more – were simple, incorporating only one or two scents. Soon the products were picked up by Bergdorf Goodman in New York City. Joanne had developed creme colored packaging featuring black ribbon and scented black tissue paper. Those boxes supported the positioning of her products – high-end, exclusive, special, and desirable. Her clientele included fashion industry insiders, celebrities, even royalty.

In 1999, she sold the business to Estee Lauder, after building a strong and trusting relationship over a period of three years. The sales price was “undisclosed millions.”  She stayed on as the creative director. Her new position included a great deal of travel, primarily to New York. She was very pleased with the manner in which Estee Lauder had embraced the brand, striving to maintain the qualities that first made it so successful. Things were going well…and then they weren’t.

Joanne discovered a lump which led to a diagnosis of an aggressive form of breast cancer. The management at Estee Lauder told her they would take care of her – which they did. She flew to Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York where she underwent a double mastectomy and a full year of chemo therapy. Cancer beaten, she went back to work full-time but things had changed. She wanted to enjoy as much time with her husband and their then two year old son. In 2006 she had a very amicable separation from Estee Lauder.

Joanne had built what started as a hobby into a multi-million dollar global brand which had been purchased by the largest company in the beauty business. She had built a fearless brand combining passion with her unique talent to create luxury products desired by millions. That brand is eponymous with her name – Jo Malone. The story doesn’t end there, however, as Jo Malone the person is the truly fearless brand and there was more for her to accomplish.

Fearless Brands 

Jo Malone had created a successful global fragrance line. She had left the business, but her name had not. Jo was very confident in the future of the brand she had built. She loved working with fragrances but her separation included a five year non-compete clause. She turned to another passion.

Jo started High Street Dreams, a show on BBC television which encouraged and supported small business and entrepreneurs. That show led to the successful launch of six new businesses in the UK – two of which continue to thrive. She also pursued her interest in food and cooking – another activity which exposed her to a myriad of fragrances. The urge to once again be active in the fragrance industry never left.

Once her five year hiatus was complete in 2011 – she launched a new fragrance company. This one she called Jo Loves. Its red, white and black colors, the new fragrances and her business model are designed to be successful while having minimal impact on the Jo Malone brand. This company launched online – a real challenge for a fragrance company. A bigger challenge was to create awareness that Jo Malone – the person – was the heart and soul of this company.

Her ability to create unique and highly appealing fragrances has helped to let the industry know that Jo Love is Jo Malone’s. Making the scents available was met in large measure when she and Gary opened their first store. They opened that store at 42 Elizabeth Street – significant because it was at that location that Jo had her very first job with the florist. Jo Love is all about memories so what better place for the store?

It’s easy to see that Jo Malone the product line and Jo Malone the person are both fearless brands. So what can you learn from them?

Fearless brands inspire – Perhaps the greatest result you can achieve with your brand is to create an emotional connection with customers and employees. Emotion is at the core of our decision to buy – our sense of loyalty. Jo Malone the product begins with quality and is differentiated by its unique fragrances. Importantly, it meets the desires of its customers. The same holds true for Jo Malone the individual. Her passion for fragrance and meeting customers’ wants are essential. What makes her more inspiring is her authenticity and humility. She is still the same person who began working at 14 to help her family.

A brand is more than a name – The name Jo Malone evokes thoughts of amazing fragrances, quality product, packaging and service. The name Jo Malone brings to mind a bright, smiling, positive, hardworking and talented businesswoman, wife and mother. Yes, the name is important – as a brand trigger. The heart and soul of all brands is the sum of their intangible assets…the emotional and intellectual perceptions we have when we experience a brand stimulus.

Your personal brand extends to everything you do –  I’m often asked why I focus on the personal brands of professionals, business owners and their employees. I have found that Jo Malone’s story answers that question clearly and effectively. Your personal brand is at the very core of your actions and contributions. There’s a little bit of you in everything you do – including your professional life. You focus on your personal brand to bring your best to life.

There is a great deal to learn from both Jo Malones. If you take nothing else from this post I urge you to make it this – it’s the intangibles that define your brand. Ask yourself this – “Does my brand inspire the action(s) I desire?” If your answer is yes, congratulations. If it’s no, which is a rather common occurrence, take heart.

It’s never too late to pursue your vision of success. Follow the passion that inspires you. Build a brand that inspires action in others. Smell the sweet scent of success.


Friday's Fearless Brand Personal Branding

Coach, International Speaker and Thought Partner - Bill’s mission is to add value to the world – one brand at a time. Bill guides individuals and companies alike in building what he refers to as a ‘fearless brand’. This is the process of discovering, embracing and delivering their greatest value – which allows them to realize greater profit. Read More

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