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Month: May 2015

Joy to the world – it’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity

Joy to the world – it’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity

Henri Alméras, the legendary perfumer of Grasse, was getting exasperated.

Over the previous two days he had taken designer Jean Patou and his confidant Elsa Maxwell, the society columnist, through just about everything in his workshop. Picking up one last sample, he said, “If you don’t like this, I’ll get a job herding goats.”

It was 1930, and Patou and Maxwell had come to the south of France in search of a perfume to help re-invigorate Patou’s ailing couture empire, which like many luxury brands had been hard hit by the Great Depression.

Removing the seal, Patou sniffed the last fragrance. He didn’t just like it, he loved it.

It was then that Alméras delivered the bad news. “You can’t use it commercially,” he said. “The price will be prohibitive.”

The scent that Alméras had made had used thousands of flowers suspended in precious oils just to make the small sample.

Patou saw that this could be a problem, until Maxwell had an idea. It needn’t be a problem it could be an opportunity.

She looked at it from a different perspective and suggested, “That’s our angle. We’ll promote it as the most expensive perfume in the world.”

So for over 80 years, Joy by Jean Patou has boasted more flowers packed into a tiny bottle—336 roses and 10,600 jasmine flowers —than anything else at the fragrance counter. To this day, Joy contracts with growers in France for tons of jasmine and roses.

However the positioning wasn’t the only clever piece of marketing associated with the launch. The second was the idea that perfume could be a substitute for the high prices of haute couture. So, it was that, in 1930 250 prominent American women, whose clothes shopping had been curtailed by the Great Depression, received a free bottle of Joy from Patou. The accompanying message raed ‘If you can’t afford our couture, we know you’ll still want something desirable”

These days, much of the perfume industry is based on this idea that owning a designer’s fragrance is a practical, affordable substitute for owning the designer’s clothes.

As for the slogan “the most expensive perfume in the world” it is still used today.

“Joy” was voted “Scent of the Century” by the public at the Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards in 2000, beating its rival “Chanel No. 5


Footnote: Joy wasn’t the first perfume that Patou had launched. In 1925 he introduced a range based on hair colours Amour-Amour, for brunettes, Que Sais-je for blondes, and Adieu Sagesse for redheads. In 1929, he added Le Sien, a sports fragrance.

The vanilla pod and the lightbulb moment – learning to trust your instinct

The vanilla pod and the lightbulb moment – learning to trust your instinct

Patrick Venning, now Marketing Director at Pernod Ricard is a man who like many of us has learnt his lessons sometimes the hard way. He recently told the story of one such lesson.

It was the late 1990s and Patrick was marketing manager for Birds Eye Walls business working on their flagship Magnum brand.

The original Magnums had been sold in Europe since 1987, but their success had prompted many competitors to follow them into the large chocolate covered ice cream block on a stick.

Patrick and his team were therefore looking for ways of improving perceptions of quality and greater more differentiation versus the competition.

Someone in the team, who had seen it elsewhere, suggested the idea of putting little flecks of vanilla seeds into the ice cream and despite some instinctive and immediate reservations Patrick approved the introduction of them into the ice cream.

“We relied exclusively on data that suggested there was a high level of awareness that these little black specs were a premium ingredient”

However the results weren’t what Patrick and the team were hoping for “(We) were hit with a huge backlash from consumers, because they simply didn’t know what it was as we hadn’t communicated it.”

Looking back he told Marketing Week that it was a revelatory moment “The lightbulb moment for me was that research data is just one part of the decision making process, and gut feel, judgement and experience should never be ignored.”

Advertising for Good

Advertising for Good

Advertising has a mixed reputation. For some people it is manipulative, even evil; persuading people to buy what they don’t need at inflated parties.

Many in the industry would however argue that advertising per se is neither inherently good nor bad; it is what it is used for and how it is used that defines its inherent worth.

Whatever your view, it would be hard to argue that the 2013 campaign run by the King Khalid Foundation and Memac Ogilvy aimed to do anything but good.

The idea for the campaign started with advertising agency Memac Ogilvy in Riyadh and for them it was both a social and a personal issue.  

“Women’s abuse is a real taboo subject in Saudi Arabia, and is constantly brushed under the carpet. There are no concrete figures as to how many women are abused in the Kingdom as no studies have ever been allowed, but many put the numbers at 92% of married women.

This rang true closer to home, when a member of the agency confirmed this had happened to someone close to them which concerned us and (we) wanted to help. So how do we create awareness, change and cut-through in a country that is very conservative and culturally sensitive, and give women the protection they need, as there is no current law to protect them.”


The creative team Jimmy Youssef (copywriter) and Scott Abbot (Art Director), along with Abdulrahim Bukhmssinand (Account manager) and Ossama El-Kaoukji (Chief creative officer) set about creating something that they wanted to be “a proactive campaign that was both controversial, but also paid homage to the culture that exists in Saudi Arabia. A campaign that could only have come from the Kingdom, was a first and (could be) herald(ed) as groundbreaking”.

The ad they created featured an image of close-up of a burqa-clad woman, but when you looked more closely you saw that the women had one ‘normal’ eye and one black eye.

Beneath her eyes is a short piece of copy; the English version reads; “Some things can’t be covered.” The Arabic version, according to Foreign Policy’s David Kenner, translates roughly as “The tip of the iceberg.” Underneath would be phone numbers for local domestic abuse shelters.

With the idea developed, the team approached the King Khalid Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation established in the King’s memory by his family, in the Islamic year of 16/12/1421 or 11/3/2001. Its aim is to be the leader of the philanthropic and development work in KSA that positively affects peoples’ lives, by providing innovative solutions to critical socio-economic challenges in the Kingdom.

The foundation loved the idea and gave their total backing to the campaign, setting up the “No More Abuse” in conjunction with Memac Ogilvy.

The ad ran in the April 17th and 18th 2013 editions of Saudi national newspapers – Alwatan and Alriyadi, as well as appearing in KKF social media channels, twitter, and Facebook. A website for the campaign included a report on reducing domestic violence and emergency resources for victims.

As expected and indeed hoped for, the ad instantly sparked a nationwide conversation on domestic abuse and woman’s rights in the country. It was a watershed moment for woman’s rights in the country. It was picked up by international news channels and got coverage on both CNN and Reuters.

Less than three months after the ad first ran, the Saudi Council of Ministers passed legislation sponsored by the King Khalid foundation outlawing any form of abuse in the home or workplace.

Today, those convicted of domestic abuse in Saudi Arabia can face a year in prison and a fine of up to 50,000 Saudi riyal (about $13,300).



In the beginning was the word, now there is the app

In the beginning was the word, now there is the app

The digital age has brought many benefits, but for Bobby Gruenewald it has been a godsend in his mission to get people to engage with the Bible more.

Gruenewald is the CEO of YouVersion, a Bible App, which has been downloaded to over 100 million devices and is opened on average by 66,000 people every second of the day or night. Gruenewald says they know of one woman who “would stay up until just pass midnight to know what verse she had received for her next day”

In an interview with Nir Eyal, Gruenewald explained how they use digital best practice to help ensure regular engagement of YouVersion’s “flock”

“We originally started as a desktop Web site, but that really didn’t engage people in the Bible. It wasn’t until we tried a mobile version that we noticed a difference in people, including ourselves, turning to the Bible more because it was on a device they always had on them.”

Users now can turn to the scripture wherever they are; Gruenewald’s data even suggests that 18% of readers have used it in the bathroom.

Other features designed to encourage regular engagement include 400 themed reading plans. “By offering reading plans with different small sections of the Bible each day, it helps keep (readers) from giving up” says Gruenewald. Bitesize chunks of what is a long book makes usage easier, but so too does the order. Placing sections that are more interesting early in the plan helps create the daily habit, before some of the more difficult or boring sections are sent.

While initially concerned about pestering readers with notifications, an experiment helped convince YouVersion of its potential. “For Christmas, we sent people a message from the app. Just a ‘Merry Christmas’ in various languages. We were afraid people would uninstall the app, but just the opposite happened. People took pictures of the notification on their phones and started sharing them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. They felt God was reaching out to them.”


Nowadays there is a whole range of these notifications used to trigger usage. There is a daily notification sent to your phone. If that doesn’t work there is a little red light that activates above the YouVersion Bible icon on your device. If you miss your very first day of a plan, a message is sent suggesting an alternative plan.

To make usage even easier there is also an option whereby you can have the extract read to you.

The power of peer encouragement is built in too. Members can, and do send messages to each other, and of course, there is much sharing on social media sites.

Perhaps not surprisingly there is a regular usage spike on Sundays, which Gruenewald further encourages as they provide a service whereby religious leaders can upload their sermons into the app. The congregation can then follow along in real time in church.

Gruenewald is full of stories of the good the app has done but one of his favourites is undoubtedly the one that was told to him by a user who had just walked into a business you might not immediately associate with a devout Christian. The user’s phone beeped as a notification arrived.  Gruenewald recalls the users telling him his thoughts; “God’s trying to tell me something! I just walked into a strip club – and, man – the Bible just texted me!” the user turned right and walked out again.

The eyes have it – the alternatives origins of Maybelline

The eyes have it – the alternatives origins of Maybelline

The origins of some brands have been lost, while for other brands they are blessed with a number of alternative stories of their beginnings.

One of these brands is Maybelline, which has two stories.

Both stories have similarities, including the presence of Tom Lyle Williams, sometimes referred to as T.L., and his sister Mabel Williams.

The first and by far most romantic version however introduces us to Chet, the object of Mabel’s affections.

It runs that in 1915 Mabel Williams was getting worried. She had started hearing whispers that her boyfriend, Chet Hewes, was falling for another woman. She confided in T.L., and being a loving brother he decided he must do something about it. Now T.L. was a chemist and was interested in cosmetics so he mixed coal dust and Vaseline. He then told Mabel to apply the resulting concoction to her eyelashes to improve their colour and overall look.

As this love story goes, Mabel then not only won Chet back, but the couple were married a year later. They went on to have three children and lived happily together for nearly 50 wonderful years.

The brand story runs on that T.L. now developed the successful product commercially and christened it “Maybelline”, a combination of the words Mabel and Vaseline.

Unfortunately, for all you romantics, it seems that this is the less likely of the two stories, as the other is drawn from a number of sources including ‘The Maybelline Story’ by Sharrie Williams; who just happens to be a direct descendant of the Williams family.


However the beginning of her story is still the matter of some family debate as she explained in a more recent blog.

 “I grew up hearing the story from my grandmother and father. They said she (Mabel) had very pale brows and lashes and wanted to darken them, so concocted a mixture of ash and Vaseline to make them appear darker.  Another story came from Mabel’s sister Eva, who said she accidentally singed her lashes and brows while cooking over the stove.  Yet another story floated around the family saying Mabel had some kind of disease that made her brows and lashes fall out.  I chose the singed brows and lashes version for my book, The Maybelline Story, only to be corrected after the book came out by Mabel’s two daughters, Shirley and Joyce.  They say their mother accidentally bleached her brows.”

Whichever of these it was, the year was still 1915. However, in this story it is Mabel who first mixes petroleum jelly with coal dust and ash from a burnt cork, before applying it to her lashes and brows. Tom Lyle Williams is sitting nearby, fascinated as Mabel performed what she called “a secret of the harem” (or alternatively a trick she got from ‘Photoplay’ magazine).

Seeing an opportunity for a product to sell through his fledging mail-order business, he used a home chemistry set to produce a mixture containing petrolatum (Vaseline), carbon black, cottonseed oil and safflower oil. Unfortunately, when his consumer test sample – Mabel – applied it to her lashes, it ran into her eyes and stung them badly.

Undaunted, Tom Lyle sought professional advice and commissioned Parke-Davis, a wholesale drug manufacturer, to develop a more suitable product. The result was a scented cream consisting of refined white petrolatum along with several oils to add sheen. It did not contain any colouring agent but it seemed to ‘brighten the eyes’. He called the product ‘Lash-Brow-Ine’.

An advertisement for Lash-Brow-Ine featured in ‘Photoplay’ in 1916. As cash came in, it was used to place advertisements in other magazines such as the ‘Pictorial Review’, the ‘Deliniator’, and the ‘Saturday Evening Post’ and so the business grew.

Tom Lyle invested some of this increased revenue in new product development and in 1917, again with the assistance of Parke-Davis, “Maybell Laboratories” began production and sale of a cake eyelash and eyebrow beautifier. The new product named ‘Maybelline’ came in two shades, black (containing lamp black) and brown (containing iron oxides) and was sold for seventy-five cents in a small box with a picture of the Maybell Girl on the top.

The box included a rectangular cake of product stamped with the name Maybelline, a small bristle brush and had a mirror attached to the inside of the lid. Its claim was that it was the “ideal, harmless preparation for darkening eyelashes and eyebrows”.


In 1920, Tom Lyle’s decision to use the name Lash-Brow-Ine came back to haunt him. In that year he lost an appeal over a trademark dispute with Benjamin Ansehl of St. Louis, Misssouri. The loss meant that the business could no longer use the name Lash-Brow-Ine and cemented the use of Maybelline in all advertising after that date.