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Archive for May 23rd, 2011

Competition Is to Successful Marketing As Fertilizer Is to Fruitful Agriculture

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

Competition Is to Successful Marketing As Fertilizer Is to Fruitful Agriculture 

Many believe that marketing a consumer product or service would be so much easier if we could have the field of commerce solely to our project. It only seems logical that if your business enterprise had the only peanut butter, pet food or toothpaste on the market you would prosper greatly. A monopoly certainly seems to be the “Holy Grail” that any marketer would desire to protect and enhance their certainty of success. It’s just that this is not so. 

Reality is different. If monopolies were so desirable then the state run enterprises of the old Soviet Union and Eastern Block Communist countries would have proven wildly superior to businesses that had to compete in capitalist systems. They did not. Lack of creativity, quality and shortages were rampant precisely because competition was not allowed as the bloated state scurried to protect firms from competing, and possibly failing. This only encouraged greater failure and inefficiencies. 

Farmers require fertilizer to grow abundant, healthy crops. Competition is the fertilizer that grows products and strong, prosperous businesses. The lack of an incentive to compete insures sloth, market distortions and lack of energy and innovation, so vital to achieving success. The firm that seeks protection for a preferred status rarely is able to stand on its own when real competitors are confronted. 

WalMart did not invent the mass merchandise, discount store retail model. Gold Circle, AyrWay, Hills, K-Mart and others preceded Sam Walton and had a head start. For awhile they succeeded. Ultimately, however, the innovations that Sam Walton utilized to build WalMart made his competitors adjust, compete, or die. The result is that consumers are better off, suppliers have prospered and the economy has adjusted to this high volume, low margin type of retail operation. 

In Europe and the Middle East there are still numerous examples of crony capitalism. In many countries a politically connected family enjoys a monopoly license or distributorship to operate a certain category of business. Automobiles, earth moving equipment, tools, machinery, foodstuff or garments are examples of exclusive distribution arrangements that enrich the owner of the license, but force the rest of society to pay artificially inflated prices, suffer shortages or minimum selection. The lack of competition is indicative of a lack of dynamism in economies that still organize their economies on this basis. 

For several centuries the United States Postal Service (USPS) handled all package and mail delivery in the country. This was a classic monopoly. Then United Parcel began to deliver small packages. Fred Smith created his logistics machine, Federal Express to deliver documents and packages over night. DHL and other international players then entered the space. The result is that this intense competition has kept prices contained, service has expanded and performance has become commoditized. All have done well except the USPS! As a monopoly it has been far too slow in adjusting to the new realities and technologies that have stood its service on its ear. 

I lecture to college students each semester. One of the topics we discuss is identifying marketing opportunities. I always ask a rhetorical question: “Would you like to start a flavored drinks business that would compete against Coca-Cola, Pepsi, RC Cola, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, 7-Up, etc.? The students always answer “no”! 

Their reasoning would seem sound. How do you compete with these giants for shelf space, floor display, promotional activity and consumer awareness? The answer is that because of competition, clever innovators introduce new types and categories of drinks each year that these behemoth brands cannot hold off owing to their bulkiness and corporate flab. Snapple, POM, Arizona Iced Teas, Vitamin Water and many more fresh new brands have carved out special niches in this mature market segment. There is always opportunity where there is competition. 

Successful people always are competitive. Athletes are obviously competitive. Writers compete for readers. Radio hosts compete for listeners. States compete for business relocations. Young people compete for love and spouses. We compete in almost every aspect of our lives. 

Successfully marketing a product or business opportunity requires a sharpened competitive instinct. Those lacking this trait are destined to work for others and this is fine for many, actually most people.  Those who are most successful in business, sales, marketing, or life are always people who do not run from competition but meet it as a challenge. They often view competition as fun as well.

For Seven Generations a Unique Business Has Brought Happiness and Beauty to Millions Each Spring

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

For Seven Generations a Unique Business Has Brought Happiness and Beauty to Millions Each Spring 

Newark, New York does not spring to mind as a base for horticultural genius. Not to be confused with tough, rough hewn Newark, New Jersey, this small farming area became the original home of one of the greatest horticultural enterprises in the world. From humble beginnings as a nursery servicing local gardeners Jackson & Perkins became the largest purveyor and developer of sub-species of roses in the United States. 

In the 1870’s Newark was the countrified mirror of cosmopolitan New York. Farms, vineyards and orchards dotted the countryside around the town. Here, in 1872 Charles Perkins, with the financial backing of his father-in-law A.E. Jackson started the now famous Jackson & Perkins greenhouses and nursery. This family business has grown to become synonymous with the development and hybridization of the greatest assortment of types of roses in the world. 

Initially Jackson & Perkins specialized in selling grape vines and strawberry plants. In 1896, the Company hired E. Albert Miller. To that date the nursery had done little in the area of plant hybridization. Mr. Miller would change that. In his spare time he began to experiment with rose breeding. In 1901 he had perfected a new strain which Jackson & Perkins began to market. This was a climber, named the Dorothy Perkins, and it became one of the most popular roses in the world and remains so to this day. 

As sales and passion for the Dorothy Perkins rose soared the Company realized it had a stunning growth opportunity to market and hybridize other styles of roses.  

Full-time hybridizers were hired. Soon Jackson & Perkins became the world’s most prolific grower and creator of new species of roses. One such hire, Eugene Boerner is credited with creating the beautiful Floribunda class of roses. Another, William Warriner developed over 110 specific types of new hybrid roses that won numerous international prizes, including 20 All-American Rose selections. Mr. Warriner’s Medallion and Red Masterpieces were chosen for special issue postage stamps in 1978 by the United States Postal Service. Over 40 million of William Warriner’s hybridized rose creations were sold to consumers. 

Fame, awards and prosperity kept accumulating for the Jackson & Perkins nursery. The 1939, at the New York City World’s Fair Jackson & Perkins organized a display of their roses entitled “A Parade of Modern Roses”. The exposition was an immense success. Visitors from everywhere wanted to purchase the Company’s assorted rose bushes but did not want to carry them as they travelled. The Company, always as astute commercially as they were as plant hybridizers, organized a mail order fulfillment operation. It quickly became the largest mail order house specializing in roses in the country.

By the 1960’s the Company had outgrown facilities in New York and began to move operations to California, finally settling in the San Joaquin Valley. In 1966 the Jackson & Perkins nursery operation was purchased by the fruit and gift house of Harry & David. The Company, however, still pioneered in the development of new growing techniques and saw sales extended around the world. 

The following are some interesting facts about the Jackson & Perkins nursery operations: 

  • The Company cultivates over 5000 acres of rose fields
  • The Company’s roses thrive in the local Hesperia loam soil
  •  Each year the Company horticulturists grow, bud and harvest 10 million plants
  • Each year between 300,000 and 400,000 seedlings are grown and evaluated at the Jackson & Perkins Research Center
  • Seven to 10 years of hybridizing work is required to perfect every new type of rose
  • Only the most beautiful and hardiest new roses are commercially cultivated, named and sold to the public, few make the cut!
  • The Company ships over 2 million plants to customers every year.

Today the Jackson & Perkins Nursery is one of the great success stories in horticultural history. The Company has expanded to market and sell a complete range of shrubs, ground covers, garden tools, decorative garden gifts, bulbs, tools, plants, and of course, roses. From humble beginnings as a local small business, this tale of achievement is evocative of what can happen in America when hard work, passion, vision, a belief in capitalism and the smallest bit of good fortune co-mingle to produce an enterprise that is valued by flower lovers, gardeners and rose enthusiasts from around the world.

As I write this piece I am surrounded by spring in full bloom. Growth, new life and abundance are sprouting everywhere after a very hard and extended winter. The roses my wife and millions of dedicated gardeners nurture are one of life’s most wonderful natural treats. We can all be grateful that a Company such as Jackson & Perkins has added so much beauty to our lives, and their genius renews itself so beautifully each year in our yards and fields.

The d’Orsay Pump High Heel Shoe Is Revered to This Day Even If the Creator Has Largely Been Forgotten

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

The d’Orsay Pump High Heel Shoe Is Revered to This Day Even If the Creator Has Largely Been Forgotten 

Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo are only a few of the famous contemporary shoe designers who owe much of their success to an early 19th century gentleman revered at the time for his style, manners and worldliness. Alfred Guillaume Gabriel, the Count d’Orsay was a nobleman and eclectic artist who married into the British aristocracy. He became a touchstone for manners, taste, understated luxury in the English royal court and high society. 

Count d’Orsay won fame throughout France, Britain and the Rhone Valley as an painter, sculptor, diarist and wit. He was considered the “most perfect gentleman of his day”. Cynics spoke of men such as Beau Brummel and the Count as “dandies”. The term “dossy, commonly in use during the first half of the 19th century, was considered to be derived from his name and meant a man who was an “arbiter elegantarium.” 

The privileged class at that time was very interested in all things related to fashion and vanity. Shoes and footwear were of particular interest. Since Catherine de Medici, in 16th century Italy, wore two inch heels to negate her diminutive height, the pursuit of shoes with ever-more exaggerated heels had become a passion. By the time of the reign of the famous French Sun King, Louis XIV, regal women were teetering on high soled and heeled shoes so ridiculously elevated that they required a type of ski pole to keep themselves upright. 

The Count d’Orsay had been a soldier in early life, and a courageous one. Uniforms and military dress were of great import to him. He was not happy with the military parade footwear of his day. He designed a military shoe for men in 1838. The profile of the shoe was quite different from pump footwear of the day, fitting more snuggly, and featuring low cut sides and a V-shaped top. The silhouette became so popular that it was soon adopted by women. The d”Orsay pump high heel shoe was thus born.   

“The d’Orsay pump leaves the sexiest part of the foot, the curved instep, naked. The curve of the instep resembles the curves of a woman’s body, and it is normally not exposed, but hidden from view “, said Christian Louboutin, in describing the modern influence and popularity of the d’Orsay high heeled style of pump shoe. Modern materials, technology and design have co-mingled to make women’s shoes ever more exotic and dynamic. The d’Orsay styles sold today are reflective of the advances in engineering that the pioneering styles created by the Count d’Orsay have evolved to. 

The origins of the d’Orsay designed shoe has been largely forgotten. Most women that wear the d’Orsay don’t even know the proper historic name for the shoe. However, the design is one of the most popular today, worn and favored by stylish women everywhere. 

The Count d’Orsay inadvertently created an enduring fashion style for women by endeavoring to create footwear for men. Modern haute couture designers have taken his military directed shoes and leapfrogged the styling to runway shows, department stores and boutiques where they are mated with ever more feminine fashion creations. This is a classic instance of a product or design evolving from its market of original intent to an ultimately more successful usage.

For 100 Years Women Have Enjoyed the Luxury of Jean Patou’s Joy Fragrance

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

French furrier and tanner Jean Patou moved from Normandy to Paris in 1910 intent on building an eponymous fashion house. He opened Maison Parry and sold his entire collection in 1914 to a single American client. Just as his fame was obtaining traction with the fashionable haute couture clientele of Paris World War I intruded. 

After serving as an officer in the war he returned to Paris and re-opened the fashion house. The “Flapper” style was popular after the war. This greatly offended the sensibilities of Mr. Patou. He countered the short skirts popular at the time and parried with a longer, more elegant line in his creations. He employed a French fashion sense to counter what he considered the gauche styles that swept in from America after World War I. The French tennis sensation Suzanne Lenglen became as famous for her Jean Patou designed tennis dresses, as for her scintillating game. 

Jean Patou developed the classic cardigan and won new fans for creating comfortable and natural fashions. In the 1920’s his fame grew even more with the creation of the first designer tie for men. 1928 saw the House of Patou introduce the first sun tan oil, Huile de Chaldee. The product became a sensation with many clients buying the oil solely for the sublime scent it offered. 

When the stock market crashed in 1929 the market for couture clothing also crashed. The House of Patou survived by being among the first to market and distribute internationally perfumes and scented luxury bath products. The most famous was one of Jean Patou’s first, Joy. Created in 1935 by master perfumer Henri Almeras, the perfume was offered initially to Patou’s former clients who could no longer afford his clothing. 

Joy was an immediate sensation. The perfume was packaged in a collectible art-deco box and included a beautiful Jean Patou silk scarf that matched each season’s carton graphics. Joy is the world’s most expensive fragrance. 

Dozens of other fragrances followed after the death of Jean Patou in 1936. Homme de Patou became a popular men’s fragrance brand. Jean Patou’s sister Madeline took over the business upon the death of her brother.

Famous fashion designers continued to be associated with the House of Jean Patou, including Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Kerleo. The family maintained control of the business until 2001 when it was sold to the giant beauty products Company Proctor & Gamble. 

For most of the last 75 years Joy by Jean Patou was the most expensive and the second best selling fragrance brand in the world. Only Chanel No. 5 was more popular with perfume customers around the world. For years a 15 ml (1/2 ounce) flacon on Joy perfume sold for the equivalent of $250 United States dollars. 

The success of the Jean Patou brand for most of the past century is testament to the staying power of products that are exclusive, artisan crafted and perceived as a thing to aspire too. Fragrances that inspire the consumer create a unique loyalty. Hundreds of perfumes and scented lines of bath and body products come. Most go quickly. In order to stand the test of time the scent must evoke a uniqueness that involves luscious aural notes, classic flacon design, subtle packaging and exclusivity.