It’s often difficult to pin down exactly how a brand gets people buzzing. Offering a quality product is usually the best place to start, headline-grabbing gimmicks help, but when a brand cultivates its image in just the right way, both in-store and out, you can capture lightning in a bottle.

Case in point Aesop, an Aussie beauty products company that has garnered quite a reputation among the well-heeled and in the know, owing in large part to its hand soap’s ubiquitous placement in upscale hotels and restaurant bathrooms.

Hand Soap as a Gateway Product

“But, it’s just hand soap” you might be saying. And yes, it is. But Aesop has capitalized on a savvy combination of image and marketing in a way that really makes an impression on people, even in the fleeting moments they’re washing their hands. This one carefully placed product gets people interested in the rest of their skin, hair and body care line.

Aesop’s physical presence is growing stateside, amassing 40 stores in 16 cities peddling its $39 hand soap and $60 Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil since 2012, according to Racked. Its brick-and-mortar locations attempt to create an atmosphere of serenity for customers, nailing the “shopping as experience” factor. Each retail location has its own unique thematic visual concept, like its Los Angeles store where reclaimed cardboard tubing from rolls of fabric liberally adorn its interior.

Gramercy Park Hotel : Aesop Amenities

Exclusivity Sells

Aesop is a textbook study in prestige branding. Aesthetically, the company favors a subdued yet high-end approach, with uniformly clean and understated product labels and packaging. And you won’t find dark amber bottles dispensing Aesop’s flagship “Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash” in any old food court bathroom. But you will find it at New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel, Aesop’s longest-running US partnership.

The company is deliberately selective with its partners, which adds to the brand’s exclusivity. As Suzanne Santos, Aesop’s General Manager of retail and customer service told Racked, the brand’s partnerships “are created from a shared affinity of exemplary food and hospitality” and that “If that affinity isn’t present or reciprocated on both sides, we do not partner with a restaurant.”

A well-choreographed ballet of elements including unique in-store experience, carefully crafted image and selectivity with partnerships outside the store literally has people talking about hand soap. You can’t buy that kind of cachet, but if you have a product and a reputation that makes customers feel a certain way, it gets people talking, no matter what your product line is.

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