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BeautyBlog

Introduction by: Peter Marshall

Men’s Grooming is unquestionably a growing category in Travel Retail and it’s always good to introduce a fresh brand that has enjoyed considerable success in the US market and elsewhere and has set its sights on TR. I met up with Judah Abraham, CEO and founder of Slate Brands at last month’s TFWA event in Singapore. As you will read, his approach and strategy is both sharply innovative and interesting. And there’s a whole lot more to discover….

Peter Marshall (PM): Judah, welcome to trunblocked.com. Let’s kick off by giving us the background to Slate Brands.

Judah Abraham (JA): As the former Director of Innovation and Business Development at Cosmopolitan Cosmetics Inc., I gained deep knowledge and global exposure to the beauty industry while working with numerous brands internationally. This experience showed me a need to create brands that fill white space in the market and carve out a niche in the industry. I also developed a specialty in fragrance during my time at Cosmopolitan, which inspired me to create an incubator focused on influencer brands and fragrance. Our mission as a company is to provide value by filling white spaces in both the fragrance/men’s grooming space, as well as with talent brands.

PM: So, Slate Brands not only brings its own products to market, but as an incubator,  the company also develops brands as joint ventures with other partners/founders. Can you talk about your own brands first?

JA: Sure, our first brand is Insanely Clean – an innovative men’s skincare brand that was born in Brooklyn and made in South Korea. Our goal is to provide high-quality, easy-to-use essentials that help men develop healthy skincare habits. We believe in taking the hassle out of skincare by offering convenient and practical formulations to make it insanely simple for men to take care of their skin.

Our second brand, Modern Magic, is a collaborative fragrance house that we plan to launch this summer. This brand is rooted in the idea of offering high-quality fragrances that are accessible and inclusive. We believe that fragrance should be a reflection of the times and memories we live in, and we strive to create scents that capture the essence of contemporary culture. With the creative energy of Gen-Z as our guiding force, Modern Magic’s identity is centered around reinventing the fragrance industry with a modern, inclusive approach to quality.

In addition to our own brands, we have several incubated brands. These include Vagitaminz by Lala Milan, Mirrored Image fragrance by the Murillo Twins, ME Nails by Moriah Elizabeth, Hue by Hayley Kiyoko, Active Beaut-E by Evelyn Lozada, and Evolove by Kaycee Rice. We have more brands in the making which will be launching later this year.

We work with talent partners who initially start as drops to test the market. Our structure allows them to add value to their personal brand without the full commitment of a brand launch, while we serve as the operator. A drop test is essentially a way to test a new brand by releasing a limited edition product that adds value to the consumer. The purpose is to gauge the demand and success of the brand and determine if it’s viable for long-term growth. If the response is positive, the brand can be scaled up by adding more products and signing joint ventures to bring in additional resources and expand the brand.

PM: But the fact is that, in chasing Gen Z consumers, and with Insanely Clean, for example, you are also entering a market where there are arguably much stronger players already in place. What USP do you have that differentiates your product?

JA: with many strong players, but Insanely Clean stands out as a fun and approachable brand with vibrant colors that don’t conform to stereotypes. Our extensive research has shown that men prioritize feeling clean and our products easily blend into their existing routines. Insanely Clean does exactly that.

Insanely Clean’s branding is eye-catching and acts as a reminder to take care of oneself, which is a key pillar of our brand. Our focus is to be a skincare brand that goes beyond surface-level results. The products are formulated with quality ingredients sourced from experts in Korea, targeting soothing, brightening, and nourishing the skin, in line with our brand’s values. We also provide self-care ideas for emotional relief on our blog and social media. So, what makes Insanely Clean unique is our commitment to providing a skincare experience that is not only effective but makes you feel good on both the inside and outside.

PM: OK. Given the lead times involved in getting products to market, it is potentially easy to get trapped into trending products only, or is your focus wholly on long term, sustainable products that can evolve and grow?

JA: Lead times involved in getting products to market can be lengthy, which is why our focus is on producing long-term, sustainable products that evolve and grow. Our emphasis is not on creating trendy products, but on delivering quality ingredients and efficacy that produce results over time.

By focusing solely on trending products, we risk missing the market altogether as the trend may have passed by the time our products hit the shelves. Insanely Clean is committed to keeping our brand simple and straightforward, without any unnecessary fuss. Our values dictate that we won’t push out trendy products that contradict our core principles.

‘Our values dictate that we won’t push out trendy products that contradict our core principles’.

PM: So where are you currently in distribution and what feedback have you had from retailers?

JA: We sell through our distribution side to many retailers, both big box and independent chains including ones like Walmart, Qurate Group, and Ross stores – Large and independent  Pharmacy chains etc… Our in-house products are currently available in a select number of retailers including Amazon, Urban Outfitters Online and smaller boutique locations such as Pop-Up Grocer in NYC, with more partnerships in the pipeline. In addition, we have some large and exciting partnerships planned for later this year.

However, we are highly selective with the retailers we partner with as it is important to find the right fit for both the retailer and our brands. Regarding the feedback we have received from our retail partners, we are grateful for their positive responses to our high-quality products and unique brand identity. We are committed to continuing to work closely with our retail partners to provide the best possible customer experience and ensure our products are accessible to a wide range of consumers.

PM: I understand, though, that you are still largely an online business, but that your strategy is to change to having a more even online/offline split. How do you see this happening?

JA: Yes, we have primarily operated as an online direct-to-consumer business, which has allowed us to connect and build a community around each of our brands. However, we do believe in the importance of physical retail and are currently 70/30 split in favor of direct online sales. Our goal is to reach a 65/35% split between online and offline sales by end of year with the majority living in retail. Our strategy involves leveraging our existing online community and using it as a foundation to build a strong physical retail presence. We’re selective in choosing the right retail partners that align with our brand identity and values, and we view these partnerships as long-term relationships built on mutual success. By focusing on creating proper partnerships, we believe we can achieve a more balanced online and offline sales split and provide our customers with the best possible experience both online and in-store.

PM: You have said you also want to move into Travel Retail in a robust way. It’s a very different marketplace to domestic retail, as you know. Where do you see the first steps – airlines, airport retailers or cruise lines?

JA: Based on my previous distribution  experience with travel retailers –  we’re looking to expand further into this area. While differing from domestic, retail-travel retail is a large  market with a worldwide audience, and it’s a priority for us to tap into that.

We think there’s a lot of potential for innovation in travel retail, and our plan is to start by partnering with airport retailers to get our brands out there to a broader audience. As we listen to our community and their preferences, we believe that our brands would really resonate with airport shoppers, especially our Gen Z base.

We’re all about creating products that meet their needs and values, and we’re constantly seeking feedback to make sure we’re providing them with the best possible experience. We know that right now, our current customers might not be ready to fully experience  cruises, but as they age, their travel preferences shift, and we’ll be there to grow with them.

‘We’re all about creating products that meet (Gen Z) needs and values’

The future of travel retail is definitely something we’re excited about, and we’re going to keep listening to our community and expanding our brand’s reach across with opportunities for innovation in the space.

PM: I want to go back to the incubator part of your business. I know each deal is different, but are there some common threads in the deals that you do?

JA: We look for brands that add value to the market while filling a need, and each deal is unique in its own way. However, there are some common threads that we typically look for in our deals.

First and foremost, we place a strong emphasis on talent involvement. We believe that having talent involved in the brand not only maintains the authenticity of our brand but also allows for stronger storytelling. We also believe that talent should own the brand, including its intellectual property and trademarks, so our incubator structure is not a traditional licensing model.

We take care of all brand operations including manufacturing to allow talent to focus on their other commitments within the brand. By providing this support, we enable our partners to fully realize their creative vision and bring unique products to market that resonate with our target audience.

PM: So what have your success stories here been to date?

JA: Yes, we’ve had several successes and continue to learn and grow. Some of these include launching Mirrored Image fragrance that sold out only four hours after launch, establishing successful partnerships with various retail partners such as Walmart and Urban Outfitters, being nominated for a FiFi award, and bringing on new talent partnerships to incubate beauty for some of the largest talent management agencies.

Additionally, we are proud of the overall growth and evolution of Slate Brands. We have seen increasing recognition and engagement from our target audience, as well as a growing reputation for innovation and quality in the marketplace and most importantly creating products that have been very well received and acclaimed for adding value to our consumers.

PM: What is interesting here is that you provide an e-commerce platform for your own and the jv brands. How does this work and is there something about the site that makes it different from other similar platforms?

JA: SlateLand is an e-commerce platform for beauty products from emerging talent-led brands, in-house brands, and legacy fragrances. We curate a selection of high-quality, unique, and exclusive products for customers to easily shop and discover their own personal beauty and style.

We actually have some exciting news regarding our e-commerce platform. Starting at the end of May, we’ll be merging SlateLand with the SlateBrands website. This change makes a more efficient and simplified customer experience while  our business structure and will allow us to focus even more on our brands’ success, which is always our number one priority.

PM: I think what is pivotal to your success is how engaged you are with your customer base. Tell us more.

JA: We use our proprietary data to create brands that are truly valuable and resonate with our community. By listening to our customers’ needs and preferences, we are able to develop products and experiences that meet their expectations and exceed their satisfaction.

For our talent-led brands, we put a lot of trust in the talent to make many of the brand-related decisions. After all, they know their audience best. Our goal is to create brands that can stand on their own and align with the talent’s personal brand, while also producing products that will do well with their audience. By doing so, we can ensure that the brand stays authentic and maintains the trust between the talent and their audience.

PM: Finally, Judah, if there was one thing you wanted to say to the travel retail audience, what would it be?

JA: My advice would be to seek out brands that truly add value and prioritize understanding data and listening to your customers.

We have several exciting projects in the works that we believe will bring great value to the travel retail industry, so keep an eye out for those in the coming months.

 

Peter Marshall

Founder: trunblocked.com/Marshall Arts

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