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A Mandate to Innovate: Yankee Candle's Rick Ruffolo

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: May 3, 2007, from the May 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 5 of 6

His move to BBW/Limited Brands marked a major change in Ruffolo’s career, moving him out of traditional consumer packaged goods (CPG) and into retail. “In retrospect, my switch from classic brand management to the ‘hybrid’ specialty store model found at BBW and Yankee Candle, although a risk at the time, provided me with unprecedented leadership and innovation opportunities that would not have been possible in a more traditional CPG environment.

“It is well-documented how successful retailers have used technology, merchandising and control of the in-store experience to establish a direct and more authentic emotional connection with consumers. ‘Customer intimacy,’ that is, speaking directly with our customers every day in our stores, is a differential advantage traditional CPG companies have lost to leading retailers,” Ruffolo said.

On Top of the World

His broad job title is indicative of the wide range of challenges and opportunities he faces every day—days that are filled with meetings, market visits and calls on accounts. “We have a regular cadence of meetings each week that provides some predictability to the topics/issues being discussed.” It is a job he finds professionally challenging and rewarding, but admits the best parts of the job may be those eureka moments when his team hits on a solution everyone just knows will effectively address the challenge at hand. “The moment you realize you’ve created something where there was nothing before is very gratifying.”

A recent example of a eureka moment was arriving at the concept of the Yankee Candle World Collection. “It was one of those moments when you could immediately see the idea would be a home run,” said Ruffolo. “It was consistent with the Yankee Candle brand positioning—a passion for fragrance; it played to our core competencies as the world leader in candles and home fragrance; it connected with consumers on an emotional level; and it was clearly aspirational and ‘trend-right.’”

Each of the fragrances in the collection contains authentic indigenous extracts or oils from exotic ingredients found all around the world. The initial eight fragrances are Vera Cruz Vanilla (Mexico), Brazilian Passion Fruit, Tahitian Tiare Flower, New Zealand Wild Berry, Greek Fig & Currant, Mediterranean Cypress (Italy), Rose of Morocco and Canary Island Banana.