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Expanded: Bringing a Beloved Brand Back to Life

By: Brian Budzynski
Posted: April 6, 2010, from the March 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

An expanded interview with The Village Company's Frank Klisanich, president and CEO, and Dan O’Connor, vice president of marketing, from GCI's March 2010 Added Value print section.

EPGP. An unusual acronym that neither codifies itself into a pronounceable word (e.g., radar, Interpol, NATO) or bears the instantly memorable syncopation of initialisms such as FBI, FAQ or html. Yet, EPGP—which stands for “Exceptional Products at a Great Price”—has been quite the success for Chaska, Minnesota-based The Village Company (TVC). Purveyor of the entire collection of Village Naturals bath, shower and personal care products and in operation for more than 30 years, company leaders concluded in recent years that, due to the gradual evolution of the beauty market, they were only providing their consumer base with half the message.

“The Village Company has always been about offering exceptional products at a great price,” says president and CEO Frank Klisanich, who led the adaptation of the EPGP philosophy. “The company has always been a value player. We focus on offering the best quality products for the money, [and so] we decided to start communicating that value message more broadly to our consumers to give them a better understanding of who we are and what to expect from us.”

It was not enough that products such as Village Naturals Bath Shoppe and Village Naturals Therapy had successfully melded a reasonable and attractive price point to a high quality product, in an effort to realize market expansion and renewed depth in areas complementary to those already successfully penetrated, company leaders realized that more was not only needed, but was, in fact, expected by consumers. Enter EPGP. And once this corporate philosophy was filtered out through the marketplace, the company set its sights on diversification, specifically on the acquisition of brands that would allow the company to continue to meet the EPGP criteria—and found it in the kids’ bath segment with Mr. Bubble.

The company already owned the number two selling kids’ brand (number one in licensed kids’ bath products), Sesame Street, and Dan O’Connor, vice president of marketing for TVC, readily admits that it was felicitous opportunity that allowed the company to procure the number one brand. “It really was an opportunistic purchase,” says O’Connor. “Ascendia Brands [former owner of Mr. Bubble] went bankrupt, and we had the desire to purchase the brand. [We now] have the expertise and focus to drive category sales. Mr. Bubble fits the EPGP approach. It’s recognized as a very gentle, high-quality brand that is also the best value in the market.” At price points that hover under the four-dollar mark, the entire line of Mr. Bubble products came complete with a ready-made marketing campaign—a rich history with the American consumer. But that wouldn’t be enough to bring a once-trusted product back to life.