CAMPAIGNS: Innocence helps sell new candles

Client: Design Division (Los Angeles)

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

Product Launch.

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

sell more.

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

an ad.’


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

with you.’


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.

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