Jones Road: Bobbi Brown's new beauty brand and their secrets to rapid growth (with Cody Plofker, Director of Ecommerce)
When makeup legend Bobbi Brown’s contract at her original company was up, she wasn’t ready to retire. Instead, she followed her clean beauty passion to bootstrap the DTC brand Jones Road Beauty.
When makeup legend Bobbi Brown’s contract at her original company was up, she wasn’t ready to retire. Instead, she followed her clean beauty passion to bootstrap the DTC brand Jones Road Beauty. Leading the company’s growth as Director of Ecommerce is her son, Cody Plofker. In this episode of DTC POD, Cody shares the many hats he wears at Jones Road, why he’s team DTC versus team retail, and why he’s laser-focused on content creation as a lever for growth.
4:36 - Embracing clean beauty
A long-time advocate of health and clean ingredients, Bobbi Brown founded Jones Road Beauty. The challenge was to make clean versions of all the best products.
“Bobbi parted ways with her company that she founded and had a non-compete. And most people would be retiring at that age, but she just didn't feel done. And she felt like she had so much that she wanted to teach and so much that she wanted to continue to do. And part of it is throughout her journey she has gotten super into health and became a certified health coach. You know, clean beauty wasn't really a thing back then, but obviously now it's much more common and people care so more about what they're putting on their faces and also what they're putting in their bodies. So I think there was just a little bit of a challenge in there, and obviously makeup and the trends are changing, but also what ingredients people care about is changing. So usually people didn't think that clean products were that good. And there was kind of a challenge of how can we make the best beauty products in the world, of all products, and let's just also make them clean.”
8:50 - A soft launch that hit hard
Cody and the Jones Road team did zero pre-launch announcements, and the launch still surpassed all expectations.
“I think because we knew that there would be some initial demand we had to invest for that and kind of prepare for that and start building the team. Versus if you're going to start things from scratch, you have to obviously do it super bootstrapped and do it super lean and maybe start fulfilling orders by yourself. But we knew that that wasn't going to be sustainable. So we had to invest ahead of time for that. And I think we knew that on day one we hit something pretty special and pretty serious. We didn't really do any pre-launch because Bobbi’s non-compete was up and she didn't want to wait at all. So she wanted to launch it on that first day that she could, which means we couldn't announce it ahead of time…So we really didn't do any teasing of, and we didn't have time to kind of build a list or anything like that. But we had some press hit that day. And once people started talking about it, I think we knew it that first month and that first day just surpassed expectations. And that's when we knew we really had something.”
13:21 - Making investments in ad spend
Cody says that steady ad spend and good growth KPIs should result in increases in traffic and brand awareness.
“I think you have to just trust it a little bit. Look at audience growth, look at like, yes, they are vanity metrics in terms of looking at your reach and your followers. But I do think that is an important thing to look at. And having growth KPIs that you're growing 5% or 10% a month, I think is super important. And obviously I don't think you can look day to day and like, ‘oh, we spent this much, this was our return on ad spend.’ But I think if you invest in it over a quarter, you obviously should see your overall traffic pick up. You should see your organic search, your direct, and your branded search pick up as well if you're getting some more brand awareness out there. And you should see your overall revenue quarter over quarter go up.”
14:28 - Doubling down on social media
The next step for Jones Road is to focus on building community through social storytelling, such as putting resources into TikTok.
“Obviously influencers and UGC are huge. Especially in beauty, on Instagram, just being able to share what our products look like on different people and obviously doing some storytelling around brand pillars as it relates to building a community. I think that's something we can do a way better job of is building a community on social, on Instagram. That's kind of our main focus and I think something that we can do a way better job of. And then we're really not doing much and a good enough job on TikTok. So that's going to be a huge focus. And that's something I know you asked, like, how do you calculate your return on investment of organic? I mean, we're going to find out. Because we're going to invest quite a bit of resources into TikTok, because I really think that's where the attention is. And we'll see how that plays out.”
15:37 - Building the marketing team
There are many new roles that will be up for grabs soon at Jones Road, most notably a growth associate who can work with creators on fresh user-generated content.
“We've got one senior to manager level of marketing operations. We are about to hire a director of influencer marketing, that's something we're hiring for right now. We just hired an associate manager of retention marketing. So email and SMS. We have a social associate, and then a marketing coordinator. So that's kind of what our marketing team looks like right now. But again, we're looking to grow upon that quite a bit. We're looking to hire another person on the media buying side, maybe somebody else to help with our ad creative. So somebody like a growth marketing associate, where they work with content creators, work with these platforms, write briefs, communicate with creators to get UGC, and then work with an editor to kind of turn that around.”
22:36 - Finding content creators
A critical part of Jones Road Beauty’s growth has relied on getting products into the hands of influencers. The key is getting them to then create content that will help grow the brand.
“We haven't done a lot of like pay-to-post. We've done a lot of seeding, so I think that's something that's been super successful. I think the more we do of that, the better. It’s just getting our products out there, it's kind of a little bit more of a brand awareness play. And then we've used a lot of influencers for paid social stuff. Just using it. Getting content is really the name of the game. It's how much content can you get? And it's very expensive and time-consuming to do it all in-house. I was talking to somebody the other day who is a consultant for this. But you know, UGC is not like an add-on thing anymore. It really has to be an essential part of your marketing. On Instagram, on TikTok, it's super important. And you have to have a budget for it. You have to dedicate, even if you're a really small brand, you have to figure out what your budget is. You have to figure out how you're going to find content creators.”
29:07 - Growing a personal audience
In addition to growing the audience for Jones Road, Cody is buy networking and growing his own personal audience so that he can more effectively hire.
“My main motivation right now is I'm trying to build our team. So if I can get on podcasts from it, if I can maybe speak at some events, just build an audience there, hopefully whenever we need to recruit somebody I have a network, I have an audience. I really think it's just the biggest leverage that you can have, that almost everybody should be building an audience, even if it's not a big one, so people know who you are. Because if you're looking for a job, like I would much rather hire somebody that I'm familiar with, that I've engaged with, and kind of know a little bit more about them. If we were raising money, I'd much rather raise money from somebody who's in my network and my audience. So there's just nothing bad that can really come from it.”
33:34 - Sticking with DTC over retail
Cody says that for now, retail isn’t a focus. He would much rather continue to fully own the revenue, customer data, and customer experience.
“We have one of our own stores, but we're not in any retail. We're doing a pop-up right now in Creedo, but I don't think that that'll be long-term. And we're trying to hold off on that. At least I am trying to hold off on that for as long as possible, just so that we can own all of our distribution and all of our data. Part of the value of being direct to consumer is obviously you get to keep your margin, but more importantly, you get to keep your relationship to your customers. When you're in retail, you have to launch products for retailers. You have to make specific SKUs for them. Sometimes you don't get to make what you really think is going to be best for the customer. So that's why we're choosing not to be in it for now.”
36:12 - Building a media company
The key to DTC growth for Jones Road lies in growing organic traffic. They plan to achieve that by essentially building a media company that will invest in content and support the product company.
“We want to double our growth. We want to do so essentially keeping our ad spend 15% or less of our total revenue. So to do that, we've got to figure out organic distribution. Most people go into retail for distribution, but you lose margin, you lose equity. You no longer own the customer data. We want to keep all of that. So essentially what I think most people do, they either go to retail for distribution, or they go to venture capital for distribution; stay direct to consumer but then it's all just spent on ads. We want to do it profitably. Keep all of our data, keep all of our equity, not dilute at all. And to do that, we've got to learn how to grow our organic traffic. So what we're going to do is we're going to build a media company. We're going to build a media business. So we're going to invest in building a team and invest in content. I don't exactly know yet what the form is going to look like for that content, where it's going to. How are we going to distribute it, that's kind of all in the works right now. But that's really going to be our overall goal is building a publication company, building a content-first company, that lives alongside our product company.”