Management Practices

Salon Marketing Masters: The Media Darling

Stacey Soble | July 10, 2011 | 2:14 PM

Salon Marketing Masters: The Media DarlingThe Media Darling
A dual heritage lay the groundwork for Kim Vo's media and business success.

Growing up with two different heritages made me both right- and left-brain oriented," says Kim Vo. Perhaps that's why he has found equal success both as a creative artist to A-List Hollywood celebrities and an entrepreneur with multiple salons and a promising new product line.
"Long ago, I broke down in my mind what a specialist is-and what I came up with is someone who can explain things in understandable terms," he says.  "While some people are wired to think in terms of consultations, my brain is wired to think in soundbites."

That innate ability proved to be the foundation for his meteoric media rise, but Vo has come to realize the roots of that ability began in childhood. With a mother who was a manicurist, Vo started developing a working understanding of the beauty business long before he started learning English at the age of nine. "At the beginning of my career, I was still working on English. When people would explain things to me, sometimes they'd get very complicated," he explains. "I learned to break down the information into simpler terms, which in turn, helped me be able to explain things in simpler terms."

While Vo credits his background for his work ethic and his communication abilities, he understands it was the celebrity factor that really pushed the envelope in his success.
He began his professional training at The Spot in New York, later moving to Beverly Hills to join the most exclusive salons in the West Coast-Salon Cristophe and Privé Salon. There he served many prominent figures, including Bill and Hillary Clinton. Soon, L'Oréal hired him as a master colorist and he traveled to Europe where he began his in-depth study of cutting-edge French technology in the beauty industry.

While each of these salon pros takes a unique approach to marketing, all have earned their black belts.

Salon Marketing Masters: The Media Darling

Karate, Judo, Kempo, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu-these represent a small handful of the different disciplines among the martial arts. Similarly, there are scores of ways for salon businesses to approach marketing-while one owner may choose one path to success, another may find their victory on a very different road. Black belts are acquired when owners gamble just the right amount on a campaign, choose a strategy that embraces their culture and enhances their brand, and succeed in fully engaging the support of their staff and the attention of their customers.

We've identified five marketing masters and dubbed them with our own titles-the Retail Queen, the Media Darling, the Digital Diva, the Promo Man and the Niche Marketer. While their approaches are drastically different, they all tackled their marketing missions with heart and determination, carving their own place in a difficult marketplace.

The Retail Queen, Inez Gray
The Media Darling, Kim Vo
Digital Diva, Aura Mae
The Promo Man, John Donato
The Niche Marketer, Stacey Weinstein
Kim Vo Salons
Beverly Hills, CA; Laguna Beach, CA, and Las Vegas, NV

Owner: Kim Vo
Affiliated with: The Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills and Laguna Beach and The Mirage in Las Vegas
Average price for cut, dry and style: $150
Media appearances: Daily 10 on E!; Extreme Makeover on ABC; TV Guide Channel; Shear Genius on Bravo
Number of SKUs in product line: 14
Product sold at: Ulta, Barney's and upscale salons

In 2000, Vo returned to California, and opened B2V salon. He quickly developed a celebrity following, including Terri Hatcher, Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson, Pamela Anderson and, more recently, Katherine Heigl. It wasn't long before the celebrity hairdresser became a celebrity himself. Through hundreds of magazine articles and multiple TV shows, such as Extreme Makeover on ABC, Daily 10 on E!, and as a judge on Bravo's Shear Genius, Vo became the hair, beauty and style expert to a global audience of millions.
"I was really lucky," says Vo. "It all started with a perm I did for a show on HGTV, but the experiences built upon one another, and I became somewhat of a hair commentator."

While Vo's left brain followed the star power, his right brain concentrated on building the business behind the brand. As B2V became a successful bungalow salon, he looked to evolve, deciding that a five-star hotel chain provided the perfect environment. "One of my heroes has always been Wolfgang Puck and how he himself has come to epitomize both food and service," he says. "I took my plan to the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas-a plan to create a salon that is a destination itself, rather than just an amenity."

Vo also looked at other hotels that had the money to develop the quality of the salon he was seeking. He has since opened a salon in the Montage Hotels in Beverly Hills and Laguna Beach, California; and he's in the process of opening two other salons located in Montage Hotels, one in Park City, Utah, and another in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Simultaneously, over the past several years, Vo worked to bring his expertise to millions by launching the Kim Vo product line to fine salons. "For me, I had no need to get my name out there on a bottle, it wasn't an ego thing, but I did have a point of difference," he says. For Vo, that difference, like most of the successful ventures in his life, has its roots in his heritage.
The new care and style collections combine ancient Vietnamese botanicals with French nanotechnology. For years, Vo's mother talked about boket, or the Vietnamese honey locust bean, touted as the secret to healthy Asian hair. On a trip, she brought back a bean from Vietnam.  "I looked at this shriveled up dried bean and thought I couldn't take this ugly thing to my Beverly Hills clientele, so I tried it on myself," says Vo.

When he found it worked, Vo instead took it to his chemists who determined the pod had a high sugar content and a naturally occurring compound that together penetrated the hair on a cellular level to lock in moisture and nutrients and give hair more energy and color. "Her old school remedy is now a key active ingredient in my line," he says.

The Retail Queen, Inez Gray
The Media Darling, Kim Vo
Digital Diva, Aura Mae
The Promo Man, John Donato
The Niche Marketer, Stacey Weinstein


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