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Marketing Matters: The Sweet Smell of Success

Donna C. Barson

It is often said that success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Marketers, however, know that does not tell the whole story. While the success of a new product certainly does contain a mixture of sweat and “lightbulb over the head” moments, it also owes an awful lot to how the product is marketed.

To illustrate, liquid soap is one of the most successful personal care products of the past quarter century. It was introduced in 1980
to a market that was already completely served by bar soap. Why would a consumer want to switch? Yet, the marketing campaign for the product was so successful in getting consumers to try the product that liquid soap now commands approximately 25% of the market.

But what if liquid soap had been marketed a different way, a way that would have doomed the product? The marketplace is certainly not kind to innovation; more than 80% of new products fail in the first three years.

While there are numerous factors as to why products fail, four of the most common are:

  • Lack of Target Market Definition—Many times, companies do not carefully define the product’s target market. You can’t appeal to everyone. Even trying is like a dog chasing its tail; the dog never catches it but spends a lot of time and energy trying.
  • Lack of Research—This encompasses several areas, including lack of a dialogue with customers about what they want and need, not carefully defining the market opportunity and failing to examine the niche the product fills.
  • The Product Itself—The fault may lie with the product. It may be positioned incorrectly, may not offer appropriate benefits or perform as promised, or it may be undifferentiated from other products in the marketplace.
  • Distribution—There is often an inadequate assessment of the various channels that can be used to sell a product. Each channel offers its own unique benefits, and each has its own unique drawbacks.

But instead of focusing on failure, let’s examine two recent brand introductions that have succeeded: tarte cosmetics and Pangea Organics.

In 2004, sales for soap maker Pangea were $100,000. In 2007, the figure is expected to approach $5 million. Not bad for a company run by a guy who dropped out of school to pursue an acting career, but Pangea CEO Joshua Onysko has always followed his heart. With little advanced planning, he moved to Boulder, Colorado, landed a job with Whole Foods as a baker, and began making soap in his garage at night. Eventually, he launched Pangea as a soap company.

In 2004, Onysko was at an organics show, and the connections he made there enabled him to launch the Pangea Organics brand. Today, Pangea is the largest cold-processed organic soap manufacturer in the U.S.

How did he do it? He spoke with companies in noncompetitive industries to learn about trends and the organics market; he looked at different industries to predict what may happen next; he has marketed the brand in numerous ways (speaking engagements, extensive public relations, etc.); and he has made his brand stand for something—in this case, by making cruelty-free, organic products that use zero-waste packaging.

Maureen Kelly launched tarte in September 2000 at trendy New York City department store Henri Bendel. The brand enjoyed immediate popularity, and today ranks #994 in the 2007 Inc. list of America’s 5,000 fastest growing companies.

How did tarte do it? Like Pangea, there were numerous factors, but important ones included responding personally to consumers to establish a sense of community with their customers, developing eye-catching and extremely distinctive packaging, offering cosmetic products with skin care benefits via outstanding ingredients, marketing primarily through growing channels such as QVC and the specialty beauty retailer Sephora (taking advantage of the unique benefits of both), and fostering customer awareness that tarte is a socially thoughtful and responsible company—the company frequently supports organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

What can we learn from these two examples? In my research as to why new brands/products succeed or fail, several factors repeatedly emerged, most of them having to do with marketing. Not surprisingly, tarte and Pangea both followed the successful track.

To help make a new brand/product successful:

  • Brands need to stand out in the crowded marketplace. tarte accomplished this via its health couture approach of skin invigorating ingredients inside of fashion-oriented packaging. Pangea does this with its trend-right focus on organics.
  • Companies need to be flexible. They must be ready and willing to change as the marketplace dictates.
  • Companies must research the market and be trend-forward by examining noncompeting industries to see what are the latest developments that are brewing. Pangea has been doing this very successfully, and it is right on trend with the movement towards natural and organic personal care ingredients
  • Brands/products must have personality so consumers can identity with them.
  • Brands/products must stand for something. Pangea is environmentally consciousness, and tarte focuses on products that benefit overall well-being along with supporting charitable organizations. Consumers like to support companies/products/brands that they feel help make the world a better place, rather than supporting those deemed as existing strictly for profit.
  • Products should be marketed in a unique venue that allows the power and personality of the product to shine through.

Of course, other factors are in play when new products/brands are introduced—such as price, accessibility and so forth. But intelligent marketing plays a big role. So maybe that old saying should be amended to say that success is 50% perspiration, 1% inspiration and 49% savvy marketing!

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