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Archive for August 20th, 2013

Problem Solving is Key to Realizing Success In the Hyper-Active Consumer Product Marketplace

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

Many of my students and prospective clients often ask a similar question: “What is the key to successfully launching a new product or service”? While there are many elements that allow for market success there is one that stands out. That is the ability for a product to provide a solution to a problem that consumers readily are able to recognize and understand.

A few years ago a direct response marketing company launched a product called the Snuggy. Initially the short form infomercial that introduced the Snuggy was considered a bit silly. The product after all is a blanket with sleeves and it looked a tad cumbersome to wear. However, as the campaign took hold, and the benefits of the Snuggy became apparent sales took off. Since launch, the Snuggy has sold well over 25 million units and has resulted in the building of a brand that regularly expands with new product
introductions
. The Snuggy offered comfort and freedom of motion.

Direct response marketers are constantly looking for products that solve problems. The items they most prize can seem almost mundane. But, if a better mousetrap can be discovered, and the product works as promised and can be built at the right price, deals will get done.

The best ideas we review almost always are generated from the creator’s personal environment. Work, a hobby, or special interests act as laboratories for the flowering of ideas that enhance the inventor’s tasks. Avid cooks devise the most useful food handling items and kitchen implements. People involved in fashion and design create interesting beauty products, jewelry concepts and other related products. Most of the useful hardware and DIY products we have reviewed evolve from a handyman, or craftsman’s drive to improve their end work product. This truism applies to every area of endeavor.

I have, on many occasions, discovered really clever problem solving gadgets being used in an acquaintances home. The item is almost always jerry-rigged, homemade, often crude but able to solve a specific problem as the creator intended. The designer usually has never considered commercializing and launching their item as a consumer product for sale in the retail marketplace. They simply built the device to solve a problem and are happy that their effort has provided the appropriate solution.

There are numerous variables that are involved in the ultimate success or failure of any consumer product or service. Design, packaging, branding, a customized business
plan
and marketing strategy, research, cost of mass production, and many other elements enter the equation that decides the success or death of a product. However, the one factor that will offer the greatest potential for a successful outcome is the ability of your project to provide a solution to a readily recognizable problem. Does your item solve a problem?

The Story of a Bespoke Tailor, Royalty, Commerce and the Introduction of the Smoking Jacket or Tuxedo

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

The modern, ubiquitous tuxedo is a staple of most modern gentlemen’s fulsome wardrobes. How the tuxedo, or “dinner jacket”, was initially birthed is an interesting story and entwines a London Saville Row bespoke tailoring house, royalty and an American investment banker. This confluence of influences has influenced how the well-dressed man presents himself for special occasions for a century and a half since the distinctive garment made its first appearance.

Tailless jackets, then called smoking jackets, first became popular in England in the mid-19th century among the landed gentry and royalty as alternatives to tailed suit coats. Distinguished by satin or grosgrain lapels and striping on the outside of pants legs, these suits were much more informal and less cumbersome than the restrictive, uncomfortable waist coated suits worn by gentlemen of that time.

Their popularity was insured when the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, asked his tailor to make him such a suit as an alternative to the waistcoat. Henry Poole & Co., the Prince’s Saville Row bespoke tailors, were tasked with designing and fitting what would become the first formally recognized “smoking jacket’. There are conflicting stories as to the date of the first iteration of what would become known as the tuxedo was crafted. But Henry Poole and Co. has receipts for such a commission dating to the 1860’s. By the 1880’s the Prince was ordering “smoking jackets” from the haberdasher.

During this period the banking firm Brown and Co. was the principal source of letters of credit for international trade payments. In 1886 the Prince of Wales invited the son of the founder of Brown and Co., James Potter Brown a London-based partner in the bank, to visit his estate at Sandringham House for a hunting party. In preparation for the visit Mr. Brown asked the Prince to advise appropriate dress for the various sporting and social functions that were to be enjoyed. The Prince referred Mr. Brown to Henry Poole and Co. where he was fitted for a proper “smoking jacket”.

During a subsequent visit to the fashionable new resort outside New York City called Tuxedo Park James Potter Brown wore his Henry Poole and Co. crafted “smoking jacket” to an elegant soiree. The suit was immediately praised and members of the resort began to demand to be fitted for the garment from their tailors. The connection to Tuxedo Park stuck and the appellation “tuxedo” for the American version of the “smoking jacket” was born.

The introduction of the modern tuxedo drove the creation of an elegant ensemble to be worn for any formal, special occasion from fund raisers to marriage ceremonies. The suit itself has developed a coterie of specialized accessories that have become almost mandatory to complete the classic look of the well dressed gentlemen. Shoes, stylized shirts and collars, studs, the cummerbund, pocket squares and neckwear specific to embellishing the tuxedo are deemed essential to complete the desired sartorial elegance.

Today, the well-dressed gentleman usually owns at least one black tuxedo complete with the requisite array of appropriate accessories. Colors and accompanying accessories now run the gamut from the elegant to the tacky. Nevertheless, whenever a man dresses in a tuxedo he is unwittingly paying a bit of homage to a successful man of  commerce, 19th century British royalty and the ageless craftsmanship purveyed by bespoke tailors.

British Royal Pageantry Would Be Much Less Colorful Without This 300 Year Old Firms Artisan Products

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

Many Americans are dazzled by the solemnity, richness and dash of Great Britain’s royalty and landed gentry class and their balls, parades, hunts, weddings and state funerals. From Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in the 1950’s to Princess Diana’s wedding and untimely funeral to the spectacular PBS television series Downton Abbey, we are shown glimpses of a world of etiquette, discipline, heritage and beauty far from our own. One firm, holders of Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Warrant, has been ringside for much of this pageantry for the better part of three centuries.

The Toye family was Huguenot refugees. They had fled religious persecution in France and arrived in 1685, settling near what is now Bethnal Green. In France they had been artisans working and crafting lace, silk, embroidery and gold and silver wiring for garments and military embellishments. They continued this work upon settling near London.

By 1784 Guillaume Henry Toye was well established in the trade and had established the firm’s first shop. His grandson William Toye, expanded the business in 1835. In addition to adding a ribbon works, William opened two retail stores near central London to capitalize on the growing demand for uniform and military parade products.

In 1890 facilities were acquired for the weaving of heavy, double-twilled silk products. The trade union movement, Friendly Societies and the Masonic trade was flourishing and Toye seized on the opportunity to accelerate the Company’s growth by serving these customer bases. A banner department was established. Painting and embroidery of the banners proved to increase the desirability of Toye’s products immensely.

The Company continued to grow under the direction of William Toye’s three sons in the first three decades of the 20th century. Then a seeming disaster, the Great Depression hit the United Kingdom in 1930. Despite massive unemployment, poverty and hunger Toye and Co. maintained full employment throughout the Depression.

In 1937 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne. Their coronation proved most profitable for the Company as it required six months of overtime work for the artisan craftsman of Toye & Co. to produce the required banners, uniforms, epaulets, robes and regalia required for the regal occasion.

To this very day Toye & Co. produces a wide range of ceremonial and fashion products. The Company operates a number of factories in the United Kingdom, including a jewelry production facility in Birmingham and a textile production plant near Coventry. The firm operates a wonderful retail shop on Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London. There, much of the firm’s highly crafted product is available for consumer purchase.

Toye & Co. is still managed by descendants of the founder, Guillaume Henry Toye. As Royal Warrant holders the firm has proven over more than 300 years of creative work that quality, detail, and dependability are touchstones that every enterprise should strive to attain and perfect in each product or service on offer.

Any 21st century entrepreneur would do well to study these honored businesses and learn the attributes that separate them from competitors.

When visiting Great Britain I always seek out firms displaying the crested sign that indicates the residence of a Royal Warrant Holder. This award is only given to firm’s possessing the absolute highest standards. Just browsing these purveyors of old world craftsmanship is enthralling and educational.