This past January, JuE Wong joined hair-care brand Olaplex as its CEO — not because it had budding potential, but because of the strength of its existing assets.
For one, the demand is there. “What we are seeing is that, when people are looking at their hair, they look at it as an extension of their skin care,” Wong said on this week’s episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast. And skin care, of course, has emerged as a major category in recent years.
Olaplex has also developed a strong reputation among stylists and other salon professionals, “which gave it a lot of credibility and authority,” Wong said. “So when I joined I saw that equity.”
Olaplex launched in 2014 and only developed a few products to start. “They knew that if they were going to launch anything else, it had to be best in class and best in category,” Wong said. “And that is what I mandated myself to do. I told my team that we are not going to go for SKU proliferation, but we are going to hone in on innovation.”
Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Hair care will be as buzzy as skin care
“Hair care is also a moment, but this moment is long-lasting because it is taking a lot of cues from skin care. What we are seeing is that, when people are looking at their hair, they look at it as an extension of their skin care. What we have also seen is that self-care has become a very big piece of how people are taking care of themselves and really wanting more from all of their products.”
No product proliferation just for the sake of it
“The company started in 2014, and in 2014 to 2018, they only had three products. They had not launched anything in between — and not because they didn’t want to, but because they knew that if they were going to launch anything else, it had to be best in class and best in category. And that is what I mandated myself to do. I told my team that we are not going to go for SKU proliferation, but we are going to hone in on innovation.”
What it means to be truly omni-channel
“A lot of people want to say that they’re omni-channel, and they basically look at brick-and-mortar versus their own website or direct-to-consumer. But what Olaplex had was another channel, which was the professional channel, which gave it a lot of credibility and authority. So when I joined, I saw that equity, where we have a professional, driving authority and credibility, and a retail distribution that was really driving our brand awareness. And then layered on top of that was the direct-to-consumer, which was generating our strategic revenue. When you have all of those three channels, you are truly omni-channel. And in a pandemic situation, where the professional was so hard hit by salon closures, it became very apparent that we could use our digital platform to do well and to do good.”