Designing global empires:
How local brands can conquer the world
Discover how Melbourne brands like Aesop, JULY, Memo Bottle, ThankYou, Blackmagic Design, Quad Lock and Bellroy are transforming the global market with their relentless focus on product design, customer experience and quality.
In a world where many cosmetics brands struggle to differentiate themselves, Australian skincare brand Aesop has risen to prominence, becoming a global force in the affordable luxury beauty space. Established in Melbourne by a hairdresser Dennis Paphitis, Aesop has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1987. Recently, the brand was acquired by French cosmetics giant L’Oréal in a record-breaking $3.7 billion deal, marking the largest transaction for an Australian luxury brand in history.
This acquisition has put the spotlight on a new generation of premium local brands that are also making waves in the global markets, right from our neighbourhoods, and we can only sit and wonder – are they ambitious enough to reach for the stars?
The Aesop story: A testament to design and quality
From modest origins, Aesop emerged as a brand that captured the attention of global consumers and investors alike. Its minimal aesthetics, amber colour lab bottles with utterly simple typography labels and unhurried approach to product launches set it apart from competitors, while its focus on sustainable store design, ethical formulations, circular economy and unique customer experiences further elevated its appeal. Over time, this resulted in a cult following and nearly 400 stores across 27 markets, making Aesop synonymous with style, taste and quality.
We now enter the next phase of our development, and I’m confident that with L’Oreal’s partnership we will be able to bring our exceptional skincare products to even more people and continue to expand our brand globally.Michael O’Keefe, CEO at Aesop
But let’s look at some other Melbourne based brands that are cutting through the market by their obsession over well designed products, customer experience and quality of materials they use in their products or how they make them. Some of them already have an incredible global presence, and some are barely even known here, with 3% market share in Australia.
JULY: Elevating the Luggage Experience
Just like Aesop, JULY has made a name for itself through its design-driven approach. This award-winning luggage brand has redefined travel by crafting beautiful, functional and durable products that resonate with today’s discerning consumers. During the pandemic, JULY has moved into the US market and kept launching new product lines, travel bags, accessories, and they like to drop limited edition luggage in different colours to their official collection.
Memo Bottle: Redefining the Water Bottle
Memo Bottle‘s unique design and commitment to sustainability have caught the attention of environmentally-conscious consumers world-wide. By focusing on creating a reusable water bottle that is both stylish and functional (flat), Memo Bottle has garnered international acclaim and you can find them in most Museum gift shops. In 2022, they ran a crowdfunding campaign to add stainless steel black and white bottles to their designer collection.
ThankYou: Social Impact Through Consumer Products
ThankYou offers a range of consumer products, including personal care, baby care, food and commits 100% of its profits to fund projects that help end global poverty. ThankYou’s innovative approach to business has allowed it to create a strong brand that resonates with socially-conscious consumers and inspires positive change around the world.
Blackmagic Design: Leading the Video Revolution
Blackmagic Design has made a name for itself as a leading innovator in the post production and television industry. By designing and manufacturing high-quality cameras, software and other video production tools, this Melbourne-based company has gained a loyal following among filmmakers, video professionals and YouTubers around the world. They have an exclusive deal with Apple, their cameras are used in Oscar winning movies and they are always first to market with new products lightyears ahead of competition.
Bellroy: Crafting Exceptional Everyday Carry Essentials
Bellroy has emerged as a global leader in wallets, bags, tech and other everyday carry essentials, thanks to its unwavering dedication to design and quality. By meticulously crafting products that combine style, functionality and durability, Bellroy has captured the hearts of consumers worldwide and become a prominent name in the premium accessories market.
Quad Lock: New Standard for Smartphone Mounts
Quad Lock‘s innovative smartphone mounting system for motorcycle, cycle, car, off-road, everyday, marine, golf, running and it allows you to build your own, which has set a new benchmark in the industry. The brand’s focus on creating durable, secure and easy-to-use mounting solutions for various activities has made them leaders in the smartphone mounting category worldwide. As of late, they are also supporting and sponsoring athletes and racing.
What’s unique about these businesses is their relentless pursuit for excellence through product design, customer experience and quality. As Steve Jobs once said: “You should build products from customer’s experience first, not from technology”, they certainly all have their customers captivated first, front and centre.
July, Thankyou and Quad Lock have won previously at the Pause Awards on multiple occasions. Being the Australian benchmark for business excellence, we think that anyone who wins Pause Awards has a solid chance of building a global empire – because of the rigorous evaluation process led by sixty independent senior industry experts who annually set a gold standard for assessment criteria.
In an article for SmartCompany, Jessy Wu describes the economics behind why we buy and what investors measure (BPP – brand, product, performance marketing), to get the results in current times.
We don’t buy $35 bottles of handwash because of the subtle fragrance it leaves on our hands, but because Aesop is a metonym for the kind of life we want to have — or at least, want our houseguests to think we have. Meticulously curated, environmentally mindful, and culturally progressive.Jessy Wu, VC investor at AfterWork Ventures
Five Insights from Aesop’s success
Aesop’s acquisition is definitely a boost of confidence for the rising Australian businesses, the ecosystem – not just a handful of Melbourne brands, to strive for excellence and domination in global markets. Here are the five key aspects of business building that Aesop got right.
- Develop a strong, unique (emotional) brand identity
Aesop’s brand identity has been a key factor in its success. The company’s minimal aesthetic, focus on sustainability and innovative store concepts have set it apart from competitors, resonating with consumers who appreciate its distinct personality.
- Focus on product quality and innovation
Aesop’s commitment to high-quality products, driven by founder Dennis Paphitis’s dissatisfaction with existing hair care products, has been a cornerstone of its growth. Its popular Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash, for example, has become the brand’s most recognisable and best selling product, earning them loyal consumers.
- Establish strategic partnerships
Aesop’s partnership with Brazilian beauty giant Natura & Co helped it grow into a global force in the luxury beauty space. By forming strategic partnerships with larger, established companies, local brands can access resources, expertise and networks that can help them expand their reach and scale their operations much faster.
- Embrace sustainability and ethical practices
Aesop’s commitment to sustainable store design and ethically sourced products has played a key role in its success, appealing to increasingly environmentally conscious consumers. Local brands looking to make an impact on the global stage should consider incorporating sustainability and ethical practices into their operations and marketing efforts.
- Tap into emerging markets and trends
L’Oréal’s acquisition of Aesop is expected to help the brand expand its presence in emerging markets like China and capitalise on growing trends in the travel retail sector. By identifying and tapping into emerging markets and trends, local brands can position themselves for long-term growth and success on the global stage.
In Mumbrella’s article by Kalila Welch, used Adam’s words to point to the fact that Aesop is the master at its own brand game. Adam then continues to say…
I think Aesop, as a brand, practises hardcore brand intelligence, prioritising what the brand stands for above everything and that permeates right through the business. Aesop has created a distinctive look and feel that extends across product design, visual merchandising, retail experience and “relentless sampling”.Adam Ferrier, Co-founder and consumer psychologist at Thinkerbell
The success of Aesop is astronomical, and we now have another blueprint on what it takes to build great companies. Apparently, first you need to be frustrated enough with what’s on offer in the market to develop a passion for creating something better and original.
If we want to compete in the global markets and build great businesses, we need to build authentic brands that are unique and different from competition, by being creative, designing high quality products that people emotionally connect and love. So please, get frustrated and build something unique.