return to homepage

Archive for January 6th, 2010

How Edible Crisco Evolved From Ivory Soap and Helped Create Modern Consumerism

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

by: Geoff Ficke

In 1911, the Procter & Gamble Company was already a highly successful marketer of consumer products. Its original Ivory Soap was the top selling bar soap in the world. One of the key components of Ivory Soap is cottonseed oil. The Company purchased huge quantities of cottonseed oil from agricultural product brokers. As sales continued to explode, and the need for cottonseed oil expanded, P&G began to have designs on controlling the market in cottonseed oil.

By controlling this market, the Company could enjoy economies of scale and drive down raw material costs for making Ivory and other products. However, with total market control over cottonseed oil, there would be added inventories of the oil that P&G would need to utilize in some other product. The Company put their scientists to work to discover a new product use for their excess cottonseed oil stock.

The result was a scientifically designed, laboratory produced, white, fluffy substance that resembled lard. Technically it was a foodstuff. In reality it was not. It had no smell or taste. And yet P&G began to ask consumers to bake and fry with the new product, Crisco. This was a mass marketing milestone. Crisco was one of the earliest products sold by utilizing modern mass market consumerism strategies.

P&G positioned Crisco as a scientific breakthrough. The Company’s real genius, then as now, was in creating a consumer demand for a product that people did not know they even needed. Stores across the country were given free samples of Crisco. Recipes and cookbooks were given away for free to teach homemakers the features and benefits of cooking with miraculous Crisco. The product was positioned as a healthy food (we did not yet know about trans-fats). My mother, until the day she died, would not think of baking a pie without using Crisco for her crust. Crisco became a staple in the cupboards of generations of cooks and homemakers.

This is a classic example of a consumer product that has its root in another completely different product classification. Bar soap is not consumed or ingested. That Ivory Soap would be the progenitor of Crisco, a non-food baking and cooking ingredient, is a classic example of an enterprise taking a component and engineering or adapting to create a completely new category or brand.

Many consumers have discovered alternative or multiple uses for common household products or ingredients. Heloise has made a wonderful career for herself by advising housewives in this type of crossover product usage in her daily syndicated newspaper column. Consumers are amazingly adaptable and creative in discovering new ways to utilize products that were originally marketed for other purposes.

Look around your environment and you might find a new product or business idea sitting on a shelf, right under your nose. By remarketing, repositioning, reengineering or reinventing something that is old, you can create something new. Who knew that a basic raw material, simple cottonseed oil, could evolve from a bar soap to a consumable foodstuff before Procter & Gamble saw and marketed the need.

For Successful Entrepreneurs Job One Is Getting Started-Not Getting It Perfect

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

by: Geoff Ficke

The times are obviously difficult economically for many people, companies and organizations. There is uncertainty about what the future holds. Many of us are worried about the “new normal” and exactly where we fit into these norms, if we could define them. There is a certain paralysis of action that accompanies change and uncertainty. This is to be understood.

For entrepreneurs, however, nothing much ever changes. The optimism that must be hard wired into their constitutions is omnipresent. Real entrepreneurs, those that “do”, not just dream, see opportunity behind every tree and under every rock. Most importantly, they act while others strategize, stargaze and pontificate.

We review hundreds of entrepreneurial opportunities every year in our marketing consulting business. But only a hand-full of these ever become functioning commercial entities. At the end of each calendar year, we review every presentation file we analyzed over the previous 12 months. We are always struck by how many excellent consumer products, concepts or services we saw and how few actually move beyond the talking, dreamy, gauzy muddle of the old Texas axiom, “all hat and no cattle”.

The most distinguishing factor we see that separates a successful entrepreneur from the dreamer is the ability to simply get started. I see much better than I hear. Words are cheap. Action is dear. The “do’er” is driven to get started in pursuit of their goals and aspirations. The time is always fine for them to get into gear and move their project ahead.

Procrastination is a trait that all entrepreneurial pretenders (wannabe’s) perfect. They are always waiting for the perfect alignment of the stars. Excuses abound. Investment is coming. Next year will be better, because……. My wife needs to get her degree before we start. It’s fishing (or hunting) season. A friend is going to make me a prototype when he takes vacation. Self-imposed limitations are endless.

No matter the economic climate, the best time to start a business is when you have a viable commercial idea. Down markets actually offer wonderful opportunities for entrepreneurs with fresh ideas that improve, enhance or change product performance. Fresh features and benefits and novel products are always welcome in our vast consumer product marketplace.

The High Priestess of Personal Freedom Enjoys a 21st Century Rebirth in Popularity

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

by: Geoff Ficke

As a young college student in the 1960’s I was swept up in the exciting, confrontational political climate of that period. The Viet Nam War was raging, the military draft was still activated, John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been taken from us by assassination. The Beatles changed rock ‘n roll music forever and the movie “The Graduate” changed pop culture.

I graduated from school and began my career in business carrying; maybe burdened would be a better description, these influences at the core of my being. I was liberal without having enough of life’s experiences to really know why I was liberal or what that meant. I saw the world as flawed and felt that collectively we could make things better, safer, more peaceful and fairer. It made me feel good to want these things, although I had no understanding of how to make these altruistic goals obtainable.

Winston Churchill once famously said, “A man who is conservative at the age of 20 is heartless, a man who is liberal at 40 is a fool”. I was soon to cross the bridge from dreamer to realist, much as described by Churchill. I started my own business. That was when reality struck, and hit right between my eyes.

At about the time I made the leap into entrepreneurialism I was introduced to the writer, philosopher Ayn Rand. I read her monumental novel Atlas Shrugged. It was attitudinally, philosophically and politically a life changing experience for me.

Every idea I had nurtured from my formative years was called into question by the hero of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. Rand’s libertarian philosophy, she called it “Objectivism”, is on full display in this powerful, logically based tale of the benefits and pre-eminence of individual rights. In the story, the productive, creative, ambitious, driven class of individuals, lead by John Galt, essentially goes on strike. Quite the opposite of a mass union strike, this stoppage by the few brings crisis to the many and itemizes the reasons that capitalism is the only economic system that can benefit the most people most often.

The power of Ayn Rand’s thinking, as evidenced by the characters and stories she wrote are enjoying a renaissance today. Born in Russia, she had fled that country after the rise of communism. Her experiences growing up in a totalitarian place made her a fierce opponent of all the “-ism’s”, communism, fascism, socialism, all forms of statism and collectivism.

At the core of the Rand philosophy was a concept based on limited government, laissez faire capitalism and individual rights. She believed that doing what was best for one-self was the only duty a person owed to society. Altruism was destructive to Ayn Rand. The modern liberal, now interestingly called “progressive”, despises the Rand view of man and believes her views reflect selfishness. And yet, it is only through the “selfishness” of the productive, entrepreneurial, risk taking class that all of society reaps the benefits of their creative, industrious enterprise. Poor people do not create jobs, and thus income, and thus taxes that support all level of government altruism and waste.

In this belief, Ayn Rand was really a modern acolyte of Adam Smith, the original philosopher of capitalism. Smith popularized the “invisible hand”, the concept that by profiting and seeking advantage for ourselves, we inadvertently provide benefit for others. America’s Founding Fathers resoundingly agreed with this philosophy and incorporated this principal into the Bill of Rights and Constitution. Rule of law, private property rights, individual rights and limited government enjoyed supremacy in the Founder’s eyes. These principles, so taken for granted and abused by government today, are the very glue that differentiates successful states from dysfunctional ones.

The early years of the 21st century will not be treated kindly by future historians. The lessons that history teaches are being ignored. Thomas Jefferson said, “He is governed best, who is governed least”. Who amongst us can honestly say that we are well governed by our all intrusive welfare, nanny-state?

The lessons and philosophy crafted by Ayn Rand have never gone away. Atlas Shrugged is the most popular book ever published, after the Holy Bible. Sales are again spiking for this, and all of Rand’s books. Because of the awkward intrusiveness and overreaching hand of government, there seems to be a revival of interest in the ideas represented by John Galt and Howard Roark in “The Fountainhead”.

Ayn Rand is the High Priestess of libertarian, free thought. As long as men seek to live free from the oppressive hand of tyranny and bungled government over-activism her place in history will be secure. There has never been a better time than 2010 to dust off old copies of Ayn Rand’s thought provoking classic tales and rekindle the passion for freedom that she so passionately portrays in her works.