Move over, celebrity perfume. Celebrity-led home fragrance brands are taking center stage.
The perfume and cologne industry has been awash with celebrity names for over two decades, but many celebrities have taken a shine to home fragrance over the last 12 months. Singer Kacey Musgraves collaborated with Boy Smells on a candle that launched in Feb. 2020. Actor Anthony Hopkins followed by launching his eponymous cologne and home diffuser brand in Nov. 2020, and rapper Drake debuted his luxury candle company Better World Fragrance House in Dec. 2020. Existing celebrity beauty brands have also expanded to home fragrances with Kim Kardashian West’s KKW launching candles in Sept. 2020, actress Michelle Pfeiffer’s Henry Rose adding candles and diffusers in Oct.2020, and singer Alicia Keys’ brand Keys Soulcare making its initial product debut with a candle last month.
“The category of candles and home fragrance is going through a wonderful kind of renaissance, and pop culture is embracing it in a fun and exciting way,” said Matthew Herman, Boy Smells co-founder.
According to Herman, Kacey Musgraves direct-messaged Boy Smells on Instagram in 2019 asking if she could collaborate with the brand. The subsequent candle, called Slow Burn, sold out in 30 minutes. Boy Smells ultimately had a waitlist of 20,000 people and sold a total of over 70,000 Slow Burn units in 2020, he said. Boy Smells launched a larger size Slow Burn candle in Nov. 2020, which has also sold out.
Prior to the collaboration, Boy Smells sales were 75% wholesale and 25% DTC e-commerce, Herman said. In 2020, its e-commerce grew by approximately 1,200%, and overall revenue increased by 375%. Herman added that, in addition to launching Slow Burn to great sales success, Boy Smells began investing in marketing for the first time and employed an outside public relations agency, which he attributed to the company’s exponential growth. Boy Smells now advertises through Facebook and Instagram, and its Slow Burn candle was named one of the top three candles of 2020 by GQ.
“We are definitely open for [another celebrity collaboration], if it’s a genuine admiration for each other’s brands and ethos. Customers are so savvy that they can tell if somebody slapped their name on something,” said Herman.
Celebrity-led fragrances have long been cash cows for both the involved celebrity and their brand license partner. For example, Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears’ fragrance brands notably earned over $1 billion each in sales over the course of dozens of launches. Jennifer Lopez fragrances are licensed with both Coty Inc. and New York-based Designer Parfums, Paris Hilton works with Parlux LTD, and Britney Spears works with Elizabeth Arden.
Industry data suggests it’s a ripe time for celebrities to move away from personal fragrance to home fragrances. According to NPD Group’s latest data, the third quarter of 2020 saw fragrance sales increase by 1% year-over-year, while home scents — led by candles — grew by 21%. Previously, second-quarter sales saw fragrance decline by 37%, while candles grew by 13% and home ancillary gift sets grew by 88%.
“Celebrity fragrances are not a big consistent [sales] category [like they used to be],” said Linda Levy, president of industry group The Fragrance Foundation. “Celebrity fragrances are about saying, ‘You’re going to smell like me,’ but it’s also a scent that depicts a celebrity’s vision of the world. Right now, the story of home fragrances is about setting a mood and [altering] your environment to make you feel really happy that you’re home.”
Indeed, Covid-19 has become the catalyst for the rise in home fragrances and the decline in personal scents. Though industry data does not break down celebrity versus other fragrance types, celebrity-led fragrances have been on a relative decline since well before the pandemic.
The Anthony Hopkins brand, which was incubated through Twila True Collaborations, added home fragrance to its branding genesis partly due to Covid-19 and the shifting landscape of home life, said Aaron Tucker, AH Collection CEO. AH Collection includes cologne, as well as candles and scent diffusers.
“Home is our sanctuary, it’s our work environment, and it’s where we raise our families. Fragrance is becoming a big part of that,” said Tucker. “As far as the fragrance industry is concerned, [the expansion] is because of Covid-19 but brands also want to expand from a personal fragrance line. Home fragrance is the natural outgrowth of that.”
Tucker said that the brand’s main marketing efforts are focused on email marketing and acquiring Instagram followers. Hopkins also maintains personal Twitter, Instagram and TikTok accounts, where he frequently mentions the fragrance brand. AH Collection will also publish a book in 2021 that covers Hopkins’ personal history with scents as well as the brand’s charitable tie-in: Five dollars from every sale goes to the non-profit No Kid Hungry.
“With celebrities that are successful, there can be a disconnect with them getting into other industries, like beauty or fragrance. It was important to have a strong element of giving back,” said Tucker.
Given the newness of celebrity home fragrances, it is unclear how they will affect legacy home brands like Nest or Jo Malone, and whether it could impact the larger celebrity perfume category. Depending on the success of a perfume, brands could roll out more ancillary fragrance products, as KKW and Henry Rose have done. Lopez, Hilton and Spears’ successful perfumes have yet to venture into home fragrance — perhaps a missed opportunity — though Lopez just launched her own skin-care line.
“Celebrities are here to stay for a while, but I don’t think [their lines] are going to take over,” said Levy.
To which Herman added, “There’s plenty of room to share.”