With nary a hint of marketing nor celebrity endorsements, Australian grooming brand Aesop has slowly become much sought after among those in the know for its effective and unfussy products.
Aesop CEO Michael O’Keefe was in Singapore recently to open its seventh store in Singapore at ION Orchard. He spoke with us about Aesop’s stance about celebrity endorsements, its secret strategy that has enabled it to take over the world, and the Aesop man.
What do you think makes Aesop different from the other grooming brands?
The rest of the industry focuses so much on product functionality, celebrity endorsements, that type of thing. For us, the products are the most important thing. What’s in the jar connects to you as a customer.
But around that, our connection to design and architecture, and thinking about people holistically is very different from the industry. Increasingly when people have enough things and products, they’ll start buying products that they have a connection with, that mean something to them. That’s where brands like Aesop are more valuable.
We connect in a way that most of our competition don’t.
Aesop has achieved a cult status without any marketing or advertising. What was the strategy?
As much as possible we don’t take any compromises. For us it’s not about how quickly we grow. It’s about doing the right thing for the brand. I think there’s that purity in terms of who we are that most brands and businesses end up compromising, whether it’s collaborations or what they do.
Aesop has stayed true to ourselves. We release very few products a year. Products can take up to four or five years to develop. We don’t just rush products out for the sake of it. When people use an Aesop product they have that confidence that it is quality.
Within our industry there’s always competition but there’s no one who does what we do. Having that uniqueness helps.
Do you not believe in celebrity endorsements?
If I try to do that, I’ll be run over by the big players (laughs). For us, our brand is a reflection of who we are and everything we do. And so, being different and being who we are is really important. And as we get bigger and grow, it’s really important to be true to who we are.
Could you describe the man who uses the Aesop products?
Often he’s well travelled. He’s confident. He understands that looking after yourself is important but you don’t have to be obsessive about it. Our regime isn’t overly complicated but it forms part of a healthy lifestyle. He might have kids. He is discerning in terms of what he buys and what he thinks about.
I think also that man probably sometimes drinks a bit too much, stays up a bit later than usual, is just human. We understand that.