The countdown had begun. Keith Waldon, CEO of start-up Earth Preserv, had less than a year until Earth Day 1994 to ready his environmentally sensitive bath and body products for introduction. He'd already identified the most promising retail partner: JCPenney. Waldon had secured an appointment with several senior buyers at Penney's Dallas headquarters, and he knew that everything rested on Earth Preserv's sales presentation.
A marketer by training, Waldon pulled out all the stops. "I wanted to catch JCPenney by surprise," he says. In a plush borrowed boardroom, the CEO rehearsed a five-hour multimedia extravaganza. "I had to learn how to use all the remote-control equipment," he says. He positioned a staffer to back him up in the event of a technical glitch on the big day.
When August 28, 1993, came, Waldon was ready. The five JCPenney executives entered the boardroom to find their names and corporate logo embossed on handsome four-inch-thick binders. The binders contained the plans for an all-out marketing campaign: TV storyboards, magazine ads, and slides for an infomercial, as well as price sheets and product comparisons with the Penney lines. Waldon played a demo of a funky 15-second spot ad starring both companies.
Mind you, Earth Preserv was in no position to fund this entire marketing campaign, but that wasn't Waldon's point. "I worked hard to create a partnership from the beginning," he says. He had even rented three working 800 numbers to support the advertising pieces. About halfway through the presentation, Waldon led the buyers from the boardroom to an empty storefront in the building, where he'd built a retail window display complete with miniature landfill and the Earth Preserv line on a pedestal.
Waldon concluded the presentation on a daring note. "I gave JCPenney a two-week deadline," he says. April 22 was closing in. If Earth Preserv didn't attract a major partner soon, Waldon would have to postpone the launch. Dayton Hudson was next on his list. JCPenney came back 10 days later with a big commitment. It wanted to be the only department store selling the line. That was fine with Waldon -- he didn't want to juggle more than one large chain to start, anyway.
In the months before the store launch, Waldon and the JCPenney buyers worked side by side to put the finishing touches on the product line.* * *
This is the second in a series on Earth Preserv and its national product launch. To comment, please call Susan Greco at 617-248-8473 or send electronic mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.