Covid-19 nearly caused the long-planned launch of MONDAY Haircare to become horribly unstuck. Instead, it set off a perfect lockdown storm, helping to offload product at an astonishing rate.
MONDAY co-founder Jaimee Lupton, 28, had to react fast as the implications of the coronavirus gripped the country.
Model Georgia Fowler, the face of the brand, was booked to fly in from Australia for a glamorous launch event, 1500 "influencer kits" were ready to be sent out locally and
across the Tasman, and an elaborate social media marketing plan was about to roll out.
The only thing missing was the product: shampoo and conditioner in the signature
MONDAY pink bottles.
Covid lockdown loomed and then, as luck would have it, the shipment arrived early.
Lupton and her team had to decide whether to hold off the launch until after lockdown or go now.
They went with now, cancelling the launch event and marshalling troops – including Lupton's mother Trish – to help distribute 700 pink influencer bespoke boxes to "key friends of the brand and people in the beauty space". Stock was sent out to New World, Pak n' Save and Four Square stores, and the day before lockdown they pushed go on the launch.
The influencers had nothing to do but stay home, wash their hair and post selfies online. Other Kiwis had no choice but to shop at supermarkets. Cleverly styled on social media as a luxury salon-quality brand, MONDAY sold for $8.99 a bottle. And boom, they smashed it.
New World owners forecast they'd sell 40 bottles a week, per store. At Auckland's Victoria Park, nearly 500 bottles went out the door in 12 hours. The owner of New World in
Pukekohe, Tim Wilson, described a "frenzy" as customers rushed to buy the product, with stock selling out as fast as staff could restock.
By the end of week one, more than 22,000 bottles had been sold. By week three, MONDAY was outselling other main brands and by week six they had sold their entire six months' supply. (A new shipment arrived this month so they're back in business and it's also sold in Superette fashion stores.)
Across the Tasman, the pattern was the same. The recipients of 800 influencer kits were busy sharing the love on social media while Coles supermarkets, and a beauty outlet in Sydney's Double Bay, were frantically trying to keep up with demand.
Lupton, whose background is in public relations, says she's never seen anything like it. Nor has her co-founder Nick Mowbray, of Zuru Toys.
"It's been this monumental success due to social media, harnessing it in the right way," Lupton says.
MONDAY's success, although it got a gigantic lockdown nudge, was no accident. The product has been in the planning pipeline for two years and nothing was left to chance. It's the result, Lupton says, of meticulous planning and "long hours with my incredible team. Blood, sweat and tears".
The first thing Lupton did was secure a face of the brand and Fowler's fresh-faced beauty made her an obvious choice. The women are old friends, attending Parnell Primary School together, going to each other's birthday parties and, when they were older, riding motorbikes on Lupton's family farm at Kumeu.
They caught up in New York a year ago and Fowler came on board as a partner, getting involved in product development and ideas for digital content and promotion.
"She's very involved with the destination of the brand," Lupton says. She tends to use marketing speak, peppering the interview with phrases like "engage our digital comms strategy", "optimise ads using digital data", and "video assets", which turn out to be a series of videos of the brand's muses - female influencers who support MONDAY.
Setting aside the huge advantage of having someone like Fowler on board, the brand's digital marketing strategy was flawless.
They used traditional media for pre-launch publicity, pitching Fowler to fashion and beauty magazines like Vogue Australia and the Herald's VIVA magazine. Unsurprisingly, she was the cover in both publications, and of course talked about MONDAY in the interview.
And Lupton worked publicity over lockdown, running the business remotely and lining up 20 interviews. "I was having long days."
But Instagram was their main marketing tool. Thanks to harnessing the genius of Australian designer and digital content creator Jasmine Dowling, who has 223,000 followers of her own, MONDAY's Insta-page is full of aspirational feminine "tiles" that ooze luxury and beauty - in pale pink tones. It now has 31,500 followers.
A scroll through shows beautifully styled images of pink roses, bed linen, a pink tiled bathroom, lacy underwear, a glass chandelier, pink toetoe, dreamy images of Fowler and photos of Lupton, and plenty of pale pink bottles of shampoo in luxurious bathrooms. Clever.
"All those beautiful assets, we spent a lot of time creating them, making sure everything was just perfect," Lupton says.
Then there are the muses, hand-picked friends – Lupton calls them her "girl gang"
– mainly in the beauty or fashion industry who are good at what they do and have
huge followings on Instagram. As MONDAY was launched, these brand ambassadors, or "tastemakers" as Lupton calls them, started talking about the product on their own accounts.
Collectively, their numbers are impressive: Georgia Fowler (1.1 million followers); World Vision ambassador Samantha Harris (70,500 followers); Beck Wadworth, from An Organised Life (58,700); fashion designer Maggie Hewitt/Maggie Marilyn brand (59,100); Double Bay eyebrow artist Kristin Fisher (45,200); and Madeleine Walker's The Twenty Club site (16,500).
The muses are all friends of Lupton and they don't charge for their involvement. But there's an element of you-scratch-my-Instagram-account-and-I'll-scratch-yours to
Embedded among MONDAY's "assets" are photographs and videos of all the muses,
who won't say no to the publicity.
Add to that the 1500 influencer kits which, according to data, got 95 per cent hit rates.
Lupton is aware that outsiders will look at her success and point to the advantage of having a billionaire partner in Mowbray. This is no launch-with-a-garage-in-West-Auckland back story, living on two-minute noodles until the first sales are made.
The couple live in the former Kim Dotcom mansion, now dubbed the Toy Mansion, in Coatesville, and move in circles that most of us read about in gossip columns.
Late last year they threw a Burning Man-style party in the property's sprawling grounds. Among the 400 guests were richlisters Graeme and Robyn Hart, and their son Harry, Joseph Parker, Toni Street, Sam Wallace, Heartbreak Island star Kristian Barbarich, Real Housewife Michelle Blanchard, and Martin Guptill and Laura McGoldrick.
Lupton is cheerfully defensive about having Mowbray as her co-founder, saying MONDAY needs to stand on its own feet. Mowbray won't prop it up.
"I don't get any special passes for being his partner, in fact I think it's the opposite. Being Nick's girlfriend I would say my budgets are probably tighter than anyone else's. I have to justify every single cost to him."
Lupton says the long hours she and her team worked from their Albany office have paid off. "We set out to disrupt the haircare industry and we did that."
But she has no intention of stopping at that. There are plans to quickly extend the range of haircare products and, next year, expand into the US and UK markets. Lupton has a couple of other projects up her sleeve and plans to divide her time between Auckland and Los Angeles, Covid permitting.
"It's very exciting. We have huge global plans."
Digital darlings' dictionary definitions
•Tastemaker: Leaders in their fields across fashion, beauty, lifestyle and philanthropy
•Muse: Hand-picked brand ambassadors, inspirational women
•Digital comms strategy: Using social media, such as Instagram, to maximum effect including targeted ads
•Going viral: Spreading like wildfire on social media
•Disruptive brand: Showing the way in an established market, being innovative - think Airbnb and Uber
•Key friends of the brand: People who like your product and will help spread the word
•Influencer kits: Gift boxes of product sent out to people with large social-media followings in the hope that they will share the love on their accounts.
•Influencer hit rates: Digital data showing how many "influencers" posted about the product.
•Tiles: A series of carefully-styled images on Instagram
READ MORE FROM THE SERIES:
• Friday: The fame game: Hitting it big on social media
• Friday: Digital fame: How the Cougar Boys conquered social media
• Today: MONDAY's child: How Jaimee Lupton sold 22,000 bottles of shampoo in a week
• Sunday: Reality TV stars Harry Jowsey and Kristian Barbarich reaping online rewards
• Sunday: Jaime Ridge on how to get noticed
• Monday: Miria Flavell's Hine Collection caters for women of all shapes and sizes