Friday, September 14, 2007

Personality, Passion & and Point-of-View And The Queen of Green - by Julie McManus

It’s Friday morning and I’m thinking of days long gone by. Days before I started in the direct marketing biz. I don’t usually talk about life before DM in my issues … but this week I have cause to bring them up.

It’s seems the jobs we take early in our career shape us. When I was in high school in the mid 80’s, lots of kids had part-time jobs. Whether they were taking orders at the local fast food joint, bagging groceries in the supermarket or mowing their neighbor’s lawns. Even the kids in well-off families had jobs … often they were just a bit more professional like summer internships at their parent’s law or accounting firms. And in many cases, these high-school jobs ultimately lead my school mates to the professions they ended up pursuing …whether by choice or just happenstance.

Me? I was a mall rat. I got my first job when I was fifteen. I worked after school at Limited Express. And all during high school and college, I worked for many other well-known retail stores you’ll find in most suburban malls. Over the course of the eight years I spent in the mall, I worked my way up through the ranks from a sales associate to assistant manager to manager and then ultimately district manager of the last retail store I ever worked for. That store was The Body Shop.

In the late 80s and early 90s, The Body Shop was a phenomenon like no other. With its natural products and activist ways, it came to U.S. from the U.K. like a house on fire and its founder Anita Roddick was a marketer's dream come true.

Long before the Internet Anita Roddick and The Body Shop were weaving her stories and desire to make a difference in the world into every product for sale in their bright green stores.

A Business Born From Necessity

If you don’t know the story of Anita Roddick and The Body Shop, let me bring you up to speed …

Anita Roddick was born to Jewish-Italian immigrants in 1942 in Littlehampton, West Sussex, England. She started her career as a teacher of English and History, but decided to quit and travel the world during the freewheeling days of the 1960s. After stints in Paris, Geneva and Polynesia, she returned to Littlehampton and met her soon-to-be husband Gordon Roddick. After marrying in Reno in 1970, they hit the hippie trail again before coming back to Littlehamption and opening a bed and breakfast and then later a restaurant.

In 1976, she found herself alone with two children to feed after her husband Gordon left to pursue a life-long dream to travel on horseback from Buenos Aires to New York (no kidding). A trip that would have left most marriages in shambles but one that “hippy minded” Anita supported wholeheartedly.

Before leaving, Gordon secured a 4000₤ loan so that his wife could start a business to support the family while he was gone. Anita started the first Body Shop with 25 natural skin and hair care products she mixed on her kitchen table. The trademark Body Shop bottles were chosen because they were the least expensive she could find and could be reused by customers (so she didn’t have to buy more). The signature green was chosen because it was the only color that would cover the mold on the walls of her first shop in Brighton, England.

By the time Gordon returned from his trip two years later, Anita had opened a second store. On a lark, she had sold half her business to an acquaintance to raise the money.

Upon his return, Gordon put together a franchising plan that would ultimately swell the company size to 2100 stores in 55 different countries and make Anita Roddick the 4th richest woman in the U.K. And as for that lucky acquaintance – he ended up right there with her.

She became a media darling, was voted Business Woman of the Year, bestowed the title of Dame (female equivalent of knight) by the Queen of England and dubbed the “Queen of Green.”

As I was logging online Tuesday morning, I happened to catch a glimpse of her picture. I hadn’t seen it in nearly 15 years. It was an obituary; she had died at the young age of 64.

The Three Ps of Powerful Marketing

I was fortunate to have met Anita several times and traveled to the company's Littlehampton headquarters during my stint with The Body Shop. She was a huge personality, way ahead of her time and a powerful force to be reckoned with. She was a champion against animal testing in the cosmetics industry and used her stores to spread the word of her cause. In fact, through her storefronts, she championed many causes: Reuse and recycle, fair trade practices with underdeveloped countries and awareness of the horrible situation in Romanian orphanages to name a few.

Every store in the company was mandated to find a community service project in which employees would be paid to participate. She introduced thousands of impressionable young people (employees in her stores) to the power of volunteerism and activism. As a company, we had a voice and the power to make a difference.

It was this big personality that took the world by storm and attracted customers, franchisees and employees that shared her views and passions in droves.

Anita’s amazing Personality was one of the three keys to the huge success of The Body Shop. The other two were her Passion and Point-of-View. Anita had all three and in a big way … and this was translated into the company’s powerful product marketing efforts.

If you felt as strongly as she did about the same issues and causes, you couldn’t help but like her. And people buy from people they like.

I want to repeat that again because it is so important – People buy from people they like.

In a business in which it was highly unlikely she would ever meet the vast majority of her customers face-to-face, she was able to take her three “Ps” and translate them into an incredible relationship that would ultimately make her a very wealthy woman.

The Three Ps in Your Own Business

For Anita Roddick and The Body Shop, I’m not sure the three “Ps” were intentional – at least in the beginning. But, we can take what we’ve learned from Anita and apply it to our own business … especially if that business is on the web.

When we start our businesses, we tend to want them to look large and corporate so we can compete. We wrap them in a plain vanilla wrapper in fear of offending or turning off our customers. When in actuality, it is our humanness that our customers enjoy most. Our down to earth … "I completely understand where you’re coming from … I’ve been right there with you" nature our prospects seem to like the best.

In looking back on my time with The Body Shop – far before I ever started in the direct response biz – I realize that I was building an incredible foundation for my direct marketing career to come.

So, here are 3 quick ways to infuse the three “Ps” into your own business …



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