How to Properly Differentiate the Brands in Your Portfolio - Studying the Paul Mitchell Empire

John Paul DeJoria is a true icon. He's the man behind Patrón, a selfless philanthropist, and, more famously, the cofounder of the Paul Mitchell haircare empire.

Given their success, we thought we'd look into how the Paul Mitchel mothership was able to create so many different brands that all operate within the same sector without creating competition amongst themselves.

Below are our findings.


The men, the legends.

The Paul Mitchell brand has been around for decades —remember those print ads of the man himself and his beautiful family?— and has evolved into a veritable empire encompassing a wide range of other banners that serve the haircare business.

Beyond the Paul Mitchell products, the company has developed five other distinctive brands, each catering to a unique segment within the mane market: @neonhair, @raremarula, @mitchtheman, @teatreehaircare, and @awapuhiwildginger. They all own a specific visual brand identity to reach the demographic they target. Not exactly an easy feat when you're operating in the crowded strand sector and seemingly rivaling with your siblings.

We can only imagine how tough creating a brand was before the inception of Instagram as a marketing tool (arguably the greatest one of all time), let alone five of them that are indirectly competing for customers. Paul Mitchell's business acumen led the haircare corporation to make smart decisions as it relates to compartmentalizing each branch's focus, which could not have been easy before the art of storytelling was propelled by Insta.

Today's landscape is all about creating a visual narrative on social channels, and boy has the Paul Mitchell 'Gram game been on point. If you check out, say, Awapuhi's gallery versus Tea Tree Hair Care's, or Neon Hair's versus MarulaOil's, it would be impossible not to note the distinctions. It's clear that each account has developed their own Instagram marketing strategy and leave no doubt as to which specific niche they speak to. Their respective visuals are crafted and curated in a way that telegraphs their market differentiation.

With that in mind, we thought we'd take a dive into what makes each of these awesome brands unique so that you can learn from Paul Mitchell's business prowesses.

@paulmitchellus

Starting with the mothership, the namesake brand, it's clear to see at first glance that this banner is the crux of the Paul Mitchell operations. It's all about salon professional haircare to inspire, complete with a family slant. This is evidently a hair brand with a lot of heart.

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, paul mitchell US instagram

It becomes even more apparent when looking into their top 4 most engaged-around pieces of content, which illustrate our above assessment:
paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, paul mitchell top engagement

And when people are featured in their posts, they tend to crush their average engagement rate of 0.4% by more than double:

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, paul mitchell US highest engagement

@neonhair

There's no mistaking this one: Paul Mitchell's Neon Hair brand is young, fun, and full of sass. It clearly is addressed to teens and delivers an aspirational content mix that's geared toward the fearless (or those who wish they were). As per what the look of their grid reveals right now:

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, neon hair instagram

When taking a peek at their top 4 most engaged-around posts of all time, it become amply apparent:
paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, neon hair highest engagement

When analyzing their various recent content pillars, what stands out is that their young audience is responding best to photos of hairdos and when they feature individuals, as opposed to product imagery:
paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, neon hair top perfomring content

@raremarula

Ok ok ok. MarulaOil's girl is sleek, chic, classy and driven. The darker and more neutral tones speak to elegance, as the Marula customer is evidently an upscale lady who dabbles in luxe. Here's what the brand's gallery currently looks like:

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, rare marula oil instagram

Their top 4 most engaged-around pieces of content of all time is indicative of those fancy sentiments:

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, rare marula oil highest engagement

Meanwhile, after segmenting their content, what jumps out is that the MarulaOil audience is very compelled by product images, in both a no-frills way as well as a lifestyle composition, whereas celebrities also resonate big. Aspirations, aspirations!

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, rare marula oil top performing content

@awapuhiwildginger

This brand is speaking to the millennial woman who is sharp, cool, and edgy. It's for the girl who enjoys every second of life and has a thirst for adventure, but refuses to compromise with her hair. Case in point:

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, awapuhi wild ginger instagram

Indeed, their posts with the highest engagement telegraph free spirits and hair products: 2 things that get their girl excited.

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, awapuhi wild ginger highest engagement

After segmenting their content from the last month or so, we noticed that the categories garnering the highest engagement are quotes (v millennial), product shots (in true haircare lover form) and hairdo displays.

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, awapuhi wild giner top peforming content

@mitchtheman

Well this one's a no brainer: it's the banner that speaks directly to dudes. Metrosexuals, take heed! John Paul Mitchell has certainly not forgotten about your strands and has dedicated an entire product line to male locks (because they're obviously different). And clocking in at an average engagement rate of 2.1%, it's visibly catering to an underserved niche.

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, mitch the man instagram

As it turns out, the male haircare aficionado doesn't fall far from the female tree: he also responds most to product images, hairdo demos, and —surprise!— quotes.

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, mitch the man highest engagement

And when putting their content categories from the past month under the microscope, the above-mentioned is confirmed: men are really into hairdo examples and product shots, as well as aspirational lifestyle imagery.

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, mitch the man highest engagement

@teatreehaircare

Last but ever so not least, Paul Mitchell's Tea Tree Hair Care brand presents itself as a unisex line, and appears to aim for those with adventurous spirits and a soft spot for nature and the outdoors. Their Instagram gallery is chock full of evocative imagery pertaining to that mood, which seems to be right on point: this is Paul Mitchell's brand with the highest engagement rate, coming in at 2.41%.

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, tea tree hair care instagram

Their highest engagement came through on posts that have a very outdoorsy and environmental essence:

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, awapuhi wild ginger highest engagement

The content segments that Tea Tree Hair Care's audience responds most to are lifestyle, products and hairdos:

paul mitchell, visual storytelling, instagram marketing, brand strategy, differentiation strategy, tea tree hair care tope performing content

The John Paul Mitchell corporation has done an incredible job at segmenting each of the brands they've created to fill a different corner of the haircare market. Not only does this give each company a clear direction, but it also prevents cannibalization. Any entity that operates various banners under one umbrella can take Paul Mitchell's strategy as a fine example of portfolio diversification within one single industry.

The best part of it all is that a visual storytelling marketing tool like Instagram can be pivotal in emphasizing it.


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