This week, I’m reporting on the new slate of Olaplex brand ambassadors as the embattled bond-building brand seeks to strengthen its relationship with professional stylists.
Olaplex is expanding its roster of brand ambassadors, bringing in four new names as the bond-building brand tries to course-correct its relationship with the professional stylist community.
The new global ambassador additions are colorist Jenna Perry, celebrity stylist Cervando Maldonado, colorist Jacob Schwartz and hairstylist Naeemah Lafond. Cumulatively, these ambassadors have nearly 140,000 Instagram followers. The plan is to solicit feedback from the ambassadors for the brand’s innovation and new product developments. Ambassadors will also partake in social media content creation and education tutorials for the Olaplex pro stylist community. Charlotte Watson, CMO of Olaplex, described the expanded ambassador program as more formalized than previous iterations. Existing ambassadors include hair colorists Tracey Cunningham and Guy Tang, among others.
As part of the ambassador strategy, Olaplex plans to host salon takeovers for media and influencer appointments, including at Perry’s namesake NYC salon, as well as various IRL events for the stylist community. In addition, it will secure product appearances within cultural moments such as awards-show red carpets via the ambassadors’ celebrity clientele.
“This year sees us returning to our professional community and reaffirming our commitment to stylists and colorists,” said Watson. “We’re trying to build out the technical expertise across our global ambassador group.”
It is well known by now that Olaplex has experienced declining sales. Its most recent, third-quarter earnings published Nov. 2023 showed that its net sales declined 30% year-over-year to $123.6 million, with the professional channel seeing a 23.3% year-over-year decline to $48.3 million. Amanda Baldwin, formerly CEO of Supergoop, stepped into the chief executive role in mid-December 2023 after Olaplex’s former CEO, JuE Wong, stepped down on Oct. 20. During the transition, J.P. Bilbrey, executive chair of the board and interim CEO, said during the earnings call in November that Olaplex increased its activations in the professional channel during the third quarter and had observed “positive early indicators” from those efforts. Those efforts included ramping up sampling programs, in-person and virtual events with pro stylists, and trade media placements, as well as updating visual merchandising and participating in the key promotions within salons.
“We recognize that more work is ahead to deepen engagement with the pro community further. However, from these early days of these efforts, we are encouraged that our actions appear to be resonating,” said Bilbrey during the earnings call.
According to a professional stylist survey from Piper Sandler published Dec. 2023, 55% of respondents who offered Olaplex treatments ranked it as their top preference, which was a decline from 62% in Aug. 2023. Another 29% of survey respondents said Olaplex ranked as a mid to high preference, an increase from 20% from the Aug. 2023 survey. Together, 84% of respondents had a positive preference for the brand, which Piper Sandler analysts called a “more reasonable sustainable level for preference going forward,” compared to the mid-90s percentages seen in late 2021 and early 2022.
Stylists in the survey pointed to Olaplex’s wide retail distribution as a point of contention, particularly considering its impact on salon profit. Olaplex is distributed through Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Bluemercury and Amazon. Stylists remarked that retailers like Walmart and Walgreens, where Olaplex products are found despite no formal distribution partnership, impact the brand’s reputation and stoking customer desire to buy products at a more affordable price than is offered in salons.
“From an engagement perspective, our idea is to reinforce the importance of building emotional connection between our ambassadors with the rest of our professional community,” said Watson. “That emotional connection and the impact of a stylist on the client is helpful because we’re focused on education, clarifying how to use products and ensuring the customer understands what the right products are for them.”
Misinformation regarding Olaplex’s products has been an ongoing concern even within the professional channel, and it has coincided with the entrance of several new bond-building brands and products, further impacting Olaplex’s leading position. Misinformation has included that its products contain proteins that can dry out hair, that its products contain butylphenyl methylpropional, also called lilial, which causes infertility, and that Olaplex was banned in the European Union due to its use of lilial. Olaplex products do not contain proteins, and its use of lilial was already phased out by the time of the E.U. regulation of the ingredient. In Feb. 2023, Olaplex was also sued by consumers citing that its products caused hair loss. The plaintiffs’ case was dismissed, however, after the judge determined that there was not enough similarity between the claims to justify a class action lawsuit.
“There’s so much information and misinformation online and on TikTok, so debunking [that misinformation] is something that I have learned and researched. When a company is on top and the best, these things will happen,” said Perry.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included a reference to brand distribution in Walmart and Walgreens. In a statement, an Olaplex spokesperson clarified that these are unauthorized retailers selling diverted product, and the brand’s legal team is currently addressing it.
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