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Marketing Matters: The Sweet Smell of Success

By: Donna C. Barson
Posted: November 8, 2007, from the November 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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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.