Ultimo


The lingerie brand is looking to extend into new markets starting with skincare, writes Kim Benjamin.

Ultimo, the designer lingerie range created by former model Michelle Mone, has been courting the press with racy images of its celebrity brand ambassadors for much of its 16-year existence.

The most controversial signing was back in 2004, when Rod Stewart's wife Penny Lancaster was supplanted by the singer's ex, Rachel Hunter, as the face of the brand.

Since then, a string of beautiful women have modelled for Ultimo, including Kelly Brook, Tamara Ecclestone (pictured) and Argentinian actress and model Luisana Lopilato, who is married to chart-topping singer Michael Buble.

Glaswegian Mone has proved herself a savvy operator, recognised for her services to business with an OBE, as well as being voted the most powerful woman in business by readers of Glamour.

However, Ultimo's PR strategy of signing big names to gain guaranteed press coverage is now being expanded to broader marketing. Mone recently announced she is looking to appoint an advertising agency.

In addition, the company is preparing the launch of Ultimo Beauty, which will offer cosmetics lines from face creams to fake tan. Mone's first foray into the FMCG market perhaps signals her big ambitions for rapidly expanding the brand.

Last year, Ultimo's parent business, MJM International, which is run by Mone and her estranged husband Michael, who remains a business partner, turned over pounds 42m. What does it need to do to ensure a smooth expansion and take the brand to the next level, however?

We asked former Ann Summers and Knickerbox head of marketing Gordon Lee, now a consultant, and Monkey chief executive John Morgan, whose previous agency, Merle, worked on the Ultimo account.

ULTIMO STORES

23 - Number of Ultimo 'shop-in-shop' boutiques

145 - Number of Ultimo concessions within Debenhams stores

Source: Ultimo

OUTLOOK

Two industry experts offer advice on how Ultimo can fulfil its growth plans

Gordon Lee Consultant (and formerly of Ann Summers and Knickerbox)

What you have to love about Ultimo and Michelle Mone, the brand's founder and driving force, is that at times they seem like an unstoppable force.

Mone and Ultimo appear to carry everyone - consumers, buyers, staff and the media alike - with them on a tidal wave of self-belief and gumption The Body Shop's Anita Roddick was the same.

Brand partnerships with supermarkets Asda and Tesco and department-store chain Debenhams are both pragmatic and mutually beneficial.

Ultimo brings strong design, technological enhancements and entrepreneurial spirit to their otherwise dour own-label offerings, while these big retailers bring customers appreciative of the OK! …

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