Votivo on fire

July 19 2010

I was reading an interesting interview with the Grace family of Spartanburg, SC, who own and operate the Grace Management Group, which specializes in fragrance research and development for four distinct brands: Bridgewater Candle Company; Votivo; Willowbrook; and Greenleaf. The brands operate as four separate and independent brands, each with their own target markets, marketing strategy, product development, packaging and retail base. At the same time, the company's core values infuse all of their business practices: family, personal (e.g., grandpa and grandkids handing out product samples plus ice cream at trade shows), an early commitment to sustainable and environmental products and production, and individualism, as the company is structured so that each family member is encouraged to find their own voice and vision within the family business.

I've always been interested in the Votivo candle line, as it was one of the first domestically produced luxury candle lines, known for its quality fragrances and consistent, beautiful packaging. Each Votivo product is hand-wrapped and each seal is hand-pressed. These candles are for people who are into candles, and they have carved out their niche in a very crowded field. It's important to note that this brand has been in production and distribution since 1994, proving the branding and marketing axiom that early entrants into the field will scoop up a big portion of the market share. Then it's about brand management -- keeping production consistent, solid distribution, product development that is consistent with the values, voice and visuals of the brand.

So, we have a family-run operation that fosters individualism at different tiers of the market, and delivers a solid and differentiated brand voice with their different product lines. Votivo is only one of the lines, and has had a solid brand presence and delivers a great product on a global basis. Love that!



Materalism and the Material Girl

July 08 2010

Is Madonna relevant to teenagers? Macy's is betting that the answer is a resounding yes. They have just launched a line called "Material Girl," designed by Madonna and her daughter Lourdes. The designs are rooted in Madonna's glory years in the 80s, before she became the glamorous, couture goddess that she is now (and hence, the star of this past year's Dolce and Gabanna campaign, in which the photography referenced Italian neo-realism and the womanly appeal of Anna Magnani, at couture prices. Not exactly the Macy's audience).

So, back to the Material Girl. Macy's has done well with other celebrity-branded lines that are exclusive to the retailer, such as their fabulously successful line of housewares from Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart's credibility as a domestic icon was untarnished when Macy's launched her line. Despite her time in jail, her magazine empire, TV show and appearances, K-Mart products and Bernhardt Furniture sustained her brand mojo.

Will the Madonna brand sell clothes to teen-aged girls? Teenagers are notoriously interested in the "now," not the "then". The D & G campaign, as well as recent Louis Vuitton campaigns, starred today's Madonna. The Macy's line will have to stand on its own merits, in terms of price points, fun items, and lots of options, rather than in its association with Madonna's history--or not. Only the ka-ching of the cash register will tell.