Bobbi Brown does it again

When Bobbi Brown left her namesake brand (and the parent company she sold it to, The Estée Lauder Companies) in 2016, she had no intention of running another multi-million dollar beauty company.

Yet that’s exactly what he does. Jones Road Beauty, a pure beauty brand that launched directly to consumers in October 2020, quickly found a captivating audience with both Gen Z and over 50s. On March 15, Jones Road opens its first New York store, a 750 square foot flagship located in Greenwich Village.

Unlike Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, which captured that cool, undone “makeup no makeup” vibe for Gen-X and Baby Boomers, Jones Road is a modern, minimally branded line backed by TikTok and Instagram scholars. The brand can be described as a kind of mature Glossier, with an artistic flair.

Brown created one of the beauty industry’s most iconic brands and enjoyed considerable fame with her eponymous line – her name has been on everything from foundation to eyeliner for the past three decades and still is. She was also in millions of American households almost every day for 12 years as a regular beauty contributor on “Today”. But the virality she has experienced over the past year with Jones Road is hard for her to understand.

“It’s amazing. I’m literally walking around without makeup, in sneakers, and people stop me,” said Brown, who is 65. “My recognition since Jones Road has been catapulted. I’m like, ‘How do you even know me?’ and people say, “We’re listening to your voice.”

Social media gave Brown a new platform, a new audience arrived, and Jones Road became the beauty industry’s latest darling

At a time when maintaining direct contact with consumers is difficult, Brown’s Jones Road is an anomaly. The brand is almost entirely DTC, with the exception of London’s Liberty department store, where it launched in October. This is unusual in a market where new brands are trying to launch with established retailers like Sephora or Ulta Beauty.

It is especially important for Brown to maintain this unique relationship with Jones Road customers for as long as possible: Jones Road will open its store in New York City, followed by a third store in East Hampton, Long Island in May (Jones Road has only one location in Montclair, New Jersey, where Brown lives). The brand reached $60 million in revenue in 2022, and with new locations, Brown expects that number to double in 2023.

Creating magic… Twice

Long before Brown became famous on TikTok, she was a freelance makeup artist who couldn’t find a lipstick that looked like her natural lips. Brown launched Bobbi Brown Cosmetics in 1991; she took a line of lipsticks to Bergorf Goodman. Famous was the sale of a month’s supply, 100 lipsticks, on the first day in the store. Four years later, the brand was acquired by Estée Lauder Companies.

For much of the 1990s and 2000s, the Bobbi Brown brand had a high turnover, reaching $1 billion in annual sales. But soon after a wave of influential and artistic brands hit the market around 2015, the line began to show signs of wear and tear. In 2016, Brown left, and since at least 2019, the ELC brand has been improving its formula to attract younger shoppers.

Sandra Main, Bobbi Brown’s Global Brand President, told BoF in 2019: “Younger Millennials and Generation Z – they don’t know what Bobbi was all about. They don’t know who she is.”

Jones Road seems to be educating them.

After launching other projects like her Evolution_18 line of wellness and nutritional supplements with Walmart in 2018 and opening a hotel in Montclair, Brown felt drawn to beauty again.

Jones Road follows the same “you but better” makeup ethos that Brown created in the 90s, but with updates. Reusable products such as Miracle Balm, a light-reflecting moisturizing toner, come in a minimalist black and white packaging and adhere to Credo Beauty’s “clean” standard. The name of What The Foundation, a product for oily skin, is a nod to millennial text messages.

“Some people like full coverage, some people like matte, and some people like contour, God forbid. There are plenty of people who don’t. … Not everyone wants Jones Road, but enough people do,” Brown said on the line.

Grace Atwood, an influencer who has worked with Jones Road, described the items as “idiot-proof.”

“You can’t look bad. I’m not someone who’s going to do a smokey eye or contour,” said Atwood, who sells five to ten Jones Road products a day via affiliate links. “It’s easy to look pretty and please yourself in five minutes. My mom’s friends love them.”

Instant recognition

Jones Road’s products and branding follow what’s in vogue in today’s beauty world, but also suggest other color brands that sell the “no makeup makeup” premise, from Ilia Beauty to Kosas and even Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. But the key difference is Brown herself.

While many founders of the beauty industry have recently had second acts, few have achieved Brown’s level of success.

“Bobbi has the authority to build a powerful brand even today,” said Reesa Lake, LTK’s vice president, head of Creator Agency and Partnerships.

Simeon Siegel, a retail analyst at BMO Capital Markets, agreed that Brown’s credibility and authority on beauty gives her an edge.

“Having a brand ahead of time and building awareness is just another version of customer acquisition. It’s just better conditions,” he said.

Placing Brown at the front and center was Jones Road’s winning strategy, said Jones Road CMO Cody Plofker, who is also Brown’s son.

“You can’t ignore the Bobbi factor,” he said. “When you launch a brand, you don’t know exactly what the message will be… it evolves over time.”

The Clapback Heard “Around the World

In May 2022, Brown went head-to-head with one of the most important influencers in the beauty industry, Meredith Duxbury, who is known for her complete skincare routine. After applying two scoops of What The Foundation foundation to her face, Duxbury says she’s passing on the new product by complaining about its consistency. Brown took to TikTok for an old guard versus new guard showdown to share a “new technique” she allegedly learned online by applying the product to her face and poking fun at Duxbury’s overuse of foundation.

Jones Road fans were shocked. “When I saw it, I thought, ‘Bobbi for president,'” said Atwood.

Following Brown’s response, Jones Road posted the highest daily sales record in its history.

What could have been a damaging moment for Jones Road ended up in Brown’s favour. She continued to use the Duxbury slap as a way to educate shoppers about the product. To date, the April 2022 release is one of Jones Road’s two biggest bestsellers. Jones Road spends up to 20 percent of its revenue on paid marketing initiatives, with Instagram and Facebook being major drivers.

“Thank you, Meredith, thank you,” Brown said. “It did more to sell What The Foundation than any giant at Vogue could or even do [being on] Oprah.

Having a relationship

Brown’s name recognition has taken the brand far, but Jones Road is experimenting with stores to increase awareness.

The Greenwich Village location is clean and minimal. Natural light floods the corner facility, making it a desirable spot for makeup application and shade tutorials. And while Brown won’t be in the shop every day, her master class will be on a loop.

“You don’t have all these other beauty companies trying to be great next to each other,” Brown said. “We could move in there and be ourselves.”

The East Hampton store, which opens on May 15 and is located near Ralph Lauren and Tutto Caffé, will be equally neighborhood-led. Brown expects to open two stores a year. He has his eyes on Chicago, where he comes from, and then on to Florida.

Still, running stores is an expensive endeavor and not all DTC brands are successful.

“If Nike opened a second brand online, it would sell out in no time, but that doesn’t mean it can scale,” Siegel said.

So far, Plofker said the brand has done little in terms of experimental or outdoor advertising.

It’s too early to tell if shops will be successful on Jones Road.

“I’m not going to say, ‘I’m never going into it [beauty] stores again,” she said. “We do not open stores for retail numbers. We open shops to people who want to come in [to shop] can work with an artist and touch Jones Road”.

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