Client: Design Division (Los Angeles)
Client: Design Division (Los Angeles)
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: Launch of Aromapharmacy candles
Time Frame: around March 1999 to present
Budget: About dollars 2,500
Like so many before them, Matthew Mogol and Duffy Culligan - two
twenty-somethings from the Midwest - migrated to Los Angeles to make it
big as filmmakers. Things were going OK; they even hooked up with
screenwriter Takashi Buford (Booty Call), working on a script called
’Hip Hop Confidential.’ But they still needed money. So they formed a
company called Design Division.
Profits from Design Division’s first products - vintage milk bottles
with words like ’fresh’ and ’hope’ sandblasted onto them - enabled them
to rent office space. Then, the partners brainstormed about their next
idea, using Hollywood’s much-talked- about penchant for prescription
drugs as the concept for their next project: fragrant candles packaged
in pill bottles. The candles come in amber glass with white plastic tops
and directions on the outside. For example, Niagra, a takeoff on Viagra,
instructs you to ’Dim lights, put on music, and light candle as needed
to aid in getting your groove on.’
The candles, which wholesale for dollars 7 each and retail for between
dollars 12 and dollars 28, contain essential oils and beeswax.
Mogol pitched Los Angeles’ hot new Standard Hotel just before this
year’s Academy Awards. As luck would have it, the hotel was looking to
stock its minibars with fragrant candles and used Design Division’s. For
its Oscar party, the hotel glowed with Aromapharmacy candles. Many
celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, even took the
candles home with them.
The Oscar Party was pure serendipity. Design Division wanted additional
publicity for its Aromapharmacy products, but it had no money to spend
on advertising. So it turned to PR.
’A lot of magazines are looking for new stuff and we just went that
route,’ Mogol says. ’Especially for our product, an ad wouldn’t really
You have to have editors saying, ’this works,’ and have people who
believe in it. It’s not just us saying it’s great, like it would be in
Unfortunately, Mogol had no PR training - the closest he came was his
college marketing degree. ’I started by looking at the magazines we
might want to get a hold of,’ he says. ’We wrote a little press release
describing our story - that we started in Hollywood trying to make
movies.’ Then he began calling editors.
The company’s product got a blurb in the June issue of Mademoiselle that
discussed the fact that stars were stealing the candles. ’We really got
lucky,’ Mogol says. ’Every-thing we wanted (the editor) to say, she
Mogol believes that his inexperience was a benefit: ’I’d make friends
with the editors. Not knowing what I was doing allowed me to be really
innocent. I’d say, ’I’m sorry if I’m calling you too much, I’ve never
done this before.’ If you stay on them, they’re very willing to work
In addition to Mademoiselle, the company has gotten press in other
consumer magazines that include Bikini, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Jane,
Healthy Living, Nylon, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. ’We’ve just
been real lucky in how the editorial environment has embraced our
product,’ says Mogol.
In the first four months of business, the company sold dollars 100,000
in candles - with no advertising. The product is now available in dozens
of outlets, including Zipper and Fred Segal in Los Angeles, the Whitney
Museum in New York and Colette in Paris. Mogol estimates that Design
Division has spent dollars 2,500 for the PR, on shipping, phone calls,
the promotional literature and product costs.
Mogol is now focusing on European and young magazines like YM, Jump and
Teen People. Design Division plans to branch out into therapeutic bath
products and accessories. According to Mogol, Kiehl’s has hired it to do
a candle, and it is designing corporate gifts for several companies.
With all its success, the company has been approached by several PR
agencies but has decided against hiring one. ’We’ve accomplished so much
just by doing it on our own,’ Mogol says. ’And it’s nice for (the
editors) to call and talk to the owner. Those editors mean a lot to
And, yes, Design Division does have a film division.