Ding-Dong, Avon Calling… Avon: Reshaping the Tradition of Brand Community BA590 Samuel Lippmann Marianne Gardner Cynthia Chavez Melody Sanford “Ding Dong Avon calling” is one of the best-known branding catch phrases for the 1950s, but the Avon Ladies have moved on from the iconic-smiling American homemaker to the working mother on-the-go of today. In response, Avon has had to rethink, reevaluate and redefine its customers, products and business strategies to reclaim the market power and presence it once had. Historically, the first Avon Lady was actually a man, young salesman named David McConnell. He launched Avon Calling in 1886, offering women cosmetics in the comfort and privacy of their own homes, but ironically, perfumes and hand-cream were not McConnell‟s initial merchandise. At the age of sixteen, McConnell sold books door- to-door and when they were not well received, he resorted to the advertising gimmick of offering a free gift in exchange for being allowed to make a sales pitch. McConnell realized that women liked his perfume more than his books. So, he abandoned books and organized the New York-based California Perfume Company and the door-to-door approach seemed a perfect fit for cosmetics, particularly in rural areas, where homemakers, in horse-and-buggy days, had poor access to better stores. In 1939, California Perfume Company name changed to Avon Products, Inc. The company was renamed Avon for the simple reason that the New York State town in which David McConnell lived, Suffern on the Ramapo, reminded him of Shakespeare‟s Stratford-on-Avon (ideafinder). Avon suffered a decline in its fortunes in the 1970s and 1980s owing to changing lifestyles. Many women began working outside the home, the arena where most of its demonstrations and sales had traditionally taken place. Also during this period, many salespeople left Avon to pursue more lucrative career opportunities. In the 1990s, the company redesigned its focus and advertising, upgraded its product line, and trained its sales force to make presentations in workplace settings, where 50 percent of sales now take place. Avon also considerably expanded its presence outside of the United States, especially in Brazil and other South American countries, China, and Eastern Europe. Today, despite the scores of expensive American and foreign brand-name cosmetics, Avon ranks first in sales nationwide, with Avon Ladies ringing doorbells from coast to coast. With more than 2.6 million representatives worldwide, Avon‟s annual sales top $7.7 billion (Avon). Management Andrea Jung joined the company in 1994, ascending through senior positions until she was appointed CEO in 1999 and elected Chairman of the Board in 2001. Jung is the first woman CEO in Avon‟s 119-year history and as CEO, Jung has revamped Avon‟s image. When Jung took charge, Avon was faced with waning sales and a lackluster public image. In Jung‟s own words, “the company was out of step with the needs of contemporary women. We knew we needed a fresh strategic approach. We needed to crystallize our vision.” That new vision crystallized in the new tag line “Avon, The Company for Women” (AU press release). With this new vision, the brand was made more hip and relevant including new products for teens, men, older women and women of color. Ad campaigns featuring African American and Hispanics celebrities expanded the target market. Jung intensified Avon‟s focus on global expansion. Networks were put into place internally and externally encouraging diversity and philanthropy (BSRResourses). Since Jung has implemented her vision, sales have increased 45% to $7.7 billion in 2004 and stock prices have risen 86% to $27.63 in November 2005. Under Jung‟s leadership, Avon has received numerous awards worldwide in recognition for its brands, customer satisfaction and philanthropy. Jung herself has received accolades for her success. In 2005, she was ranked #5 on Fortune magazine‟s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” list. This is a fitting recognition for the woman who seeks empowerment for all women. Brand Strategy Avon‟s brand strategy is to empower women through the creation of opportunities. Opportunities to meet new people, achieve economic independence, support social causes all while fulfilling their individual Brand- Product Avon quest for beauty. Avon builds Focal Customer - brand value through innovative Customers and Sales products and processes, the Representatives Customer – End Marketer unmatched power of its User - Avon distribution channel and the earnings opportunity it provides women. In addition, the power of their global operating model, philanthropy, and their people contribute to brand equity. This has positioned Avon as the top direct seller of cosmetics in the world. Key Resources Integral to Avon‟s brand community are its key resources. Key resources include conventions, consumer events, enterprise awards, cause marketing, scholarships, websites, publications and parties/open houses. In 1998, Avon held its first annual National Avon Representative Convention. At the conventions, all of the prime elements of brand community emerge; consciousness of kind, shared rituals and traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility with the resulting effect of increased brand loyalty. Thousands of excited, enthusiastic sale representatives attend along with key executives, top sellers and employees with an atmosphere of business and fun. On the business side, there are motivational speakers, product and training seminars, product displays, along with the latest news on all of the upcoming changes in products, leadership programs and e-commerce. On the fun side, there are celebrities, stage shows, raffles and free products. On the serious side, news regarding the cause marketing efforts is relayed but the vibe remains positive and energizing. Reflecting on the experience a sale representative mused, “As much as we enjoyed the good times and appreciated the new knowledge, we were really most happy just to be together – thousands of people who know Avon, love Avon, are Avon – to feel the pride and share the dreams” (Beauty Dish). These conventions are effective in instilling a sense of pride and loyalty within its sales representatives as well as serving as recognition for a job well done. Vickie Stiner, one of Avon‟s top sellers, won an expense-paid trip to the national convention in 1999. "I've been in it for a while and I like that they give good recognition to their top sellers. It's important to me. They also give us great training. If you have a question the company helps answer it. Avon has treated me very well" (kobeyswap). The pride and wish to share the dreams does not stop at the conventions. The Avon Foundation champions causes that affect women worldwide. Through its Breast Cancer Crusade, Avon has raised funds for research, clinical care, and education programs targeted primarily at medically underserved women. Avon also sponsors a domestic violence program which focuses on domestic violence education, awareness and prevention and support for victims. At the grassroots level, sales representatives and their local communities raise funds. At the company level, Avon has formed alliances with the business community, government and social agencies and partnered with celebrities, such as Salma Hayek and Serena Williams, to promote the causes. It is important for Avon to not only provide women opportunities in business but to also build a corporate image that demonstrates their overall commitment to women. A number of recent studies have documented that consumers carefully consider a company's reputation when making purchasing decisions (The Foundation Center). Avon‟s cause marketing and fund-raising efforts for issues that effect women positively builds their reputation which in turn, promotes customer loyalty. Avon is also building customer connections with its consumer events. One of the events is its fourth annual “Let‟s Talk Beauty Tour”. Avon is traveling across America in a mobile beauty salon inviting women to learn more about Avon while they get a makeover and vie for a chance to win a trip to the Bahamas. Additionally, Avon is trying to build new customer connections via the World Wide Web. They offer on-line customers and representatives access to beauty and selling tips, in addition to enabling online sales. Avon has structured their online platform for both ease of use for the consumer and the retention of business for representatives. Consumers pay the same price for goods online as they would pay to their Avon lady reducing the threat of consumers circumventing their reps to obtain a better price. Also, consumers can credit their sales rep during the online transaction so that both the consumer and the Avon representative feel good about the offering. This online arrangement is effective in expanding Avon‟s resources and capitalizing on an increasingly important marketing tool while still maintaining the essence of Avon, its sales force. As expressed by a couple of Avon representatives interviewed, they had mixed feelings about the online ordering system but understand it is part of doing business in a technological world and Avon is just reacting to the needs of the consumer. In response to the online ordering system, some representatives have built their own websites advertising to customers and mentoring their “downline”/recruits. The websites‟ main purpose is to meet consumer demand for online information while still maintaining ties to the representative. Representatives connect with each other through local district meetings and award ceremonies and connect with customers through open houses and parties. The most intimate connection, and perhaps most meaningful, is accomplished with face-to-face direct selling by sales representatives who are spreading the word, samples and brochures about Avon while making friends in the process. The interpersonal relationships formed with the makeup parties and face-to-face selling is the cornerstone of the traditional Avon business model. It has been very successful for Avon to hand out samples of the newest product and to distribute catalogs showcasing the latest trends to potential and existent customers. Samples offer a way for consumers to try before they buy; a definite upside to traditional retail outlets which can be buy before you try. Also, the catalog is an effective marketing tool that allows customers to peruse the latest products at their own convenience in their own home. Avon realizes the importance of the samples, catalogs and direct selling to their success and utilizes a lot of their resources in the creation of the right mix that will entice customers to buy more products. Avon currently employs a number of marketing strategies in which to build community within their different product lines. Avon has a couple of distinct lines with different target markets that comprise the bulk of their products. The traditional Avon fare is makeup and perfume for middle-aged women of various demographic backgrounds that enjoy a sense of community through the relationships with their Avon neighbors, fellow church members and friends. Over the years, this traditional segment has waned somewhat with the success of competing brands utilizing the direct sales method, in addition to women taking on more duties outside the home, and consequently, the free-time Avon capitalized on to build relationships is now spent maintaining a home. Avon has employed a number of techniques to counteract the loss of the traditional segment; a few include sales representatives catering their sales pitches for the workplace and allowing customers to order online at their convenience instead of calling their representative. According to Jung, "We have a great core direct-selling business, but now we have a brand that can expand into new channels: new customer segments like teens, and new brand extensions like wellness" (pbs). Avon has broadened the scope of their market from the traditional segment to include a couple of emergent markets; the youth segment with its brand mark, the metrosexual market with their Men‟s Catalogs, the older generation with their wellness and cosmeceutical products and the international market with the expansion of Avon selling in various countries around the world. Youth Market Within the past few years, Avon has recently realized a new target market that has recognized a community that is very powerful in terms of sharing meaningful consumptions – a new generation of youth. Teenage girls and increasingly teenage boys engage in primping and grooming and are spending more money each year in this industry. Business intelligence and market research firm Global Information Inc. reports that with an industry already boasting $6.9 billion in annual sales, youth hair-care, cosmetics, skin-care, and ethnic health and beauty items are projected to rise up to $8 billion in sales by 2008 (Pennington). According to Avon research, there are more than 300 million young women in the 16-24 age group in Avon‟s top 30 markets who spend over $200 billion annually on consumer goods. Avon has recognized this potential global market and as a result, has released mark., a brand that “celebrates remarkable young women who are making their mark in the world” (Cosmetic Packaging). “Young people are increasingly united around the world.” They listen to the same music, watch the same television shows, wear the same clothing, and communicate through the internet. “They think of themselves as part of a new mega-culture that is hip and dynamic and as a result are increasingly generational, rather than cultural or geographical (Prestige Brands). Such a market is powerful in the sense of influencing tastes and preferences. Avon‟s release of mark is directed towards young women and due to its unique direct selling nature, personal networks are formed. Avon will realize the benefits of customer relationships and brand community. Not only does Avon offer the product line that is available in the mark. catalog or magalog as Avon calls it, but it provides young women “a direct-selling opportunity, and a unique brand experience that engages them in a world of community, participation, and empowerment” (Avon mark). This is an opportunity for young women to make their marks on their financial future in earning up to 40% of sales (Mark). Young women are also given the opportunity to communicate and converse with each other as they gather for mark. parties, which serve as a key resource for Avon and the young women to share their opinions on the products, trade beauty secrets, and consult each other‟s opinions on colors. Like brandfests, mark parties enable a gathering of a brand community the opportunity for high-context interaction. During the term of a traditional mark party, young women manifest themselves in consciousness of kind and shared rituals and traditions. Selling through personal networks is important especially in “traditional” societies, as will be covered in more depth in the Emerging Markets and Globalization section below. When the segment of the youth society is examined, it is noted that young people have a lot of extra time on their hands. This creates a need for them to congregate and socialize and socializing is a key factor of the “tradition” of teenagers, which makes mark parties an extremely valuable tool in delivering the experience. The use of Avon‟s choice to target the generation segment has helped to better develop relationships with their customers. Because the young representatives who decide to take advantage of the role of an actual Avon representative, the Avon brand becomes a central part of the overall generational community as the representatives introduce new, fun, and trendy products to their own peers and community in which they live. Because it is their friends that the youth representatives market to, the value of trust is introduced, which is a key factor of loyalty. Such a global market of the new generation is powerful in the sense of influencing tastes and preferences. As such, different factors influencing the adoption process may affect one‟s likelihood of adoption. A person‟s level of innovation is “the degree to which an individual is relatively earlier in adopting new ideas than the other members of his social system” (Kotler 356). It is important for Avon to identify “early adopters” because it is they who are the trend setting opinion leaders that others look up to and admire. Avon‟s marketers need to research this particular group‟s demographic, psychographic, and media characteristics in order to communicate and directly target this audience in terms of both selling opportunities of becoming Avon representatives as well as becoming Avon customers. Company officials said that so far, the reception to mark has been strong, but the challenge is whether the strategy will be compelling enough to woo young women away from other brands in a very competitive business (Avon Trailblazers). mark. provides a unique earnings opportunity by tapping directly into young women's existing and daily beauty rituals. The line of cosmetics and related products offers fun, fresh, modern packaging; affordable pricing; and unique products offered in their own separate "magalog," featuring editorial material pertinent to young women (Avon Mark). Avon has created its mark. product to look appealing to young girls in packaging it in contemporary styles. The modern packaging is one way Avon has attempted to entice young women away from their traditional brands. Yet another factor that contributes to the attempt of substitution is the affordability of the products. Young girls tend to have less disposable income so the low prices are very attractive when it comes to switching brands. Avon‟s competitive advantage to other businesses is it direct selling approach, which allows for interaction, relationship developments, and experiences that the customer will remember. The direct selling approach enables Avon representatives to hand out samples, interact with the customer and get to know each customer‟s tastes and preferences. The direct selling approach further creates not only a loyalty factor to the company, but to the representative. Purchasers may be reluctant to purchase anything but Avon out of loyalty to their representative may he or she be a family member, close friend, neighbor, or co-worker. Avon has advertised in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, InStyle and Glamour. They have advertised on TV commercials, and just recently partnered with Allure, a beauty magazine popular among teenage girls, to advertise its products (Mark). The magazine is the beauty expert that recommends mark. products and gives beauty tips and secrets from pros and celebrities. Magalog 9 is currently running a promotion that gives a full year subscription of Allure magazine with a purchase of $20.00. Such partnerships introduce mark. as a brand of selection and marks it as a hip and cool brand to have. This is vital to getting the brand name out there so that young people become familiar with mark‟s products and brand. Metrosexual Market Avon has always sought to increase sales by expanding its network and consumer base. Recently, many studies have revealed that men‟s products are a growing industry due to the “metrosexual” trend. A more general study emphasized that the male personal product/cosmetic world market was about $3.5 billion (Eurostaf.fr). In response, Avon has launched its first cosmetics and personal care lines exclusively for men. The launch of these products is an innovative way for Avon to not only expand its customer base, but to also employ a new strategy for marketing and sales. In the past, women have usually purchased the men‟s products for their husbands, making them the actual target market. The new metrosexual line will target men directly and increase the male customer base. The male beauty industry is confronting a few issues: First, the industry must prove to the public that men‟s skin is different than women‟s skin (Rhythm of aging, thickness, sebum secretion). Therefore, an investment in the R and D to give credit to the product is essential in order to confirm a product‟s fast action and results. The next issue involves distribution of the product. Marketing must specifically target males and take into account that male beauty is still somewhat taboo. Discreet packaging may be necessary, except for perfume and toiletries, to ensure the men‟s peace of mind that other men do not know they are using product. In this market we have three types of agents: leading beauty companies such as L‟Oreal and Clarins, who are using the rollover strategy and care companies such as Decléor, Phytomer and smaller individual firms (Eurostaf.fr). European companies have been seeking customers in this new market for several years with Europeans appearing to be more willing to try new things. Studies have revealed that most every man has tried on at least one of these products, either because of a woman‟s advice or on their own (Eurostaf.fr). But what are the main issues in this market? How can Avon create a brand community for these men? We hardly see men gathering on Sundays to talk about their skin or their hair: they would soon be considered homosexual or odd. Avon and other companies have to face this prejudice when looking at their products. According to marketers, there was a major shift in cultural attitudes that made these products more acceptable for males (Agovino). For example shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Extreme Makeover” have reinforced the idea that paying attention to grooming isn‟t just a feminine trait and some are saying that there is more cultural pressure on men to look good. Sports tie-ins also seem to help in promoting products; in fact, one Avon catalogue featured NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, while New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington graced the cover of another. Mass promotion can also encourage the shift towards accepting male grooming and beauty. Many have said that “as soon as they started using one product regularly it was very difficult to stop using it, even if they had tried many different one before finding the appropriate one” (eurostaf.fr). As the presence of women increases in men's social and working lives, men have changed the way they act. This is a part of that shift. Birdie Jaworsky is an Avon lady that in the article Balls to the Wall, described her search for ways to sell more products from the men‟s catalogue. Birdie knew that in order to build brand community and connect with the men, she needed to attend a men‟s event that would allow her to hobnob while presenting her products. Donning a very short skirt and her highest pair of Avon heels, Birdie delved into the world of bowling and attempted to ingratiate herself with the men. This type of selling was very new to her but she was successful when a couple of men tried her products. Little by little, she gained the confidence of one of the men, who a couple of days later called her to purchase a cream he had tried. This was not a typical door-to-door sale for Birdie so instead, she chose a location where she could capitalize on the servicescape. She attended an event where men were having fun and where they felt comfortable with each other - bowling. Also, she was a part of the environment: dressing in a way that the men wouldn‟t have let her go unnoticed. She used the environment and the new metrosexual trend to expand her salary, and it worked. What future can we forecast for the metrosexual market segment? The trend continues to grow: currently encompassing 25% of the US market. Albeit this trend is quite recent, marketers have very high hopes about its evolution. The strategies employed to develop this segment are diverse, but building brand community can be instrumental in its expansion. However, the main purpose cannot be forgotten: customer satisfaction. Avon has bet a lot on this trend and will be launching two products lines that appeal to the family man, career man and the athletes. It‟s crucial that Avon reach its objectives in order to increase market shares. Aging Women‟s Health With American women showing a renewed interest in the overall health of their mind and body, it is no surprise that a number of new products are being developed to satisfy this demand. Avon is one of the leaders in the growing cosmeceutical industry and currently offers an array of daily vitamins catered specifically for women‟s needs; everything from mineral rich anti-aging skin crèmes to dietary supplements for menopausal women. The majority of the women fueling the increase in demand are part of an ever growing segment of the population. Within the past decade, the number of United States women age 40 and above grew from 40.4% to 44.6% in 2000 (U.S. Census). Additionally, these women are avid for non-invasive alternatives to Botox and cosmetic surgery, driving a "cosmeceuticals" market (Cosmeceutical Market Opportunities). Cosmeceuticals, a combination of cosmetic and pharmaceutical, are products that include ingredients designed not only to enhance the appearance but also to have a positive physiological effect at the cellular level. According to the Freedonia Group, a leading international business research company, this industry is destined to grow 8.5% to $5.1 billion by 2007 and is a real opportunity for Avon. Avon plans to gain market share and build customer relationships in this industry by building communities at the product, brand and company levels. Avon‟s customer-product community is strengthened from a number of sources, but most noticeably from their tradition for quality and value. Avon was voted “Most Trusted Brand” on three continents and has stated as one of its missions to be “world- renowned for leadership in Beauty, with well-loved brands, products of the highest quality, and an unmatched reputation for innovation and value”. Consumers have responded to Avon‟s commitment to quality and innovation with product loyalty. Product loyalty is the cornerstone of an effective customer-product community and Avon customers have demonstrated their loyalty to Avon with increased annual net sales. Other communities that Avon is building are the customer-brand and customer- company communities, which strengthen the Avon brand name in the eye of the consumer. One of the avenues in which Avon has chosen to strengthen these communities is cause marketing. Cause-related marketing (CRM) is defined as the public association of a for-profit company with a nonprofit organization, intended to promote the company's product or service and to raise money for the nonprofit. Corporations have been drawn to CRM due to the competition of the expanding global marketplace and the need to develop brand loyalty (The Foundation Center). Avon has chosen breast cancer as the inspiration for their cause marketing campaign and to date has raised over $400 million. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women today (after lung cancer) and is the most common cancer among women. In 2002, 192,000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in the United States and 40,000 existing cancer patients succumbed to the disease. The number of annual breast cancer diagnoses is expected to continually increase to estimates that in 2005, approximately 270,000 women in the United States will be affected. This CRM for Avon is not only of societal importance for women but also for the brand-building efforts of Avon. "The message in the United States and across all of the countries (where Avon does business) is the same: We're looking to position Avon as the company for women, whether that's the place to buy a product, to start your own business, where your health needs are addressed (or) to function as an advocate on behalf of women's health," says Joanne Mazurki, Avon's director of global cause-related marketing (Fellman 4). The target market for Avon‟s cosmeceutical and wellness line of products is age 40+, coinciding with societal pressures for women to better maintain and manage their health - with one of the recommendations being annual mammograms. Avon, due to its commitment to raising awareness and finding a cure for breast cancer, is connecting with their target market with the widespread distribution of Breast Health Resource Guide and at events such as Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. This commitment demonstrates Avon‟s genuine concern for not only the female customers of Avon but also for the betterment of every woman‟s health. Additionally, Avon enforces this allegiance not only through marketing rhetoric but also with generous contributions and fund-raising efforts by the Avon Foundation. The Avon Foundation president Kathleen Walas exemplified the impact CRM had when she said, “In 2005 the Avon Foundation reached half a century committed to improving the lives of women. From an initial scholarship of $400 in 1955, in 50 years we have exceeded $450 million raised and awarded for women‟s empowerment and health, and we continue to work towards our goal to be the largest foundation for women. The Avon Foundation has developed a special connection with women and their communities” (Avon). Another way that Avon is building brand community is not only with prospective and current customers but also within its sales people. “Avon ladies” are the heart and soul of the corporation that not only solicit and build Avon‟s customer base but also nurture and retain those relationships. Avon promotes itself as “the company for women” and further enhanced this reputation with the introduction of the "Women of Enterprise Awards" program. This program recognizes the independent spirit of women who have succeeded in spite of personal or professional challenges, while risking so much of themselves in their quest to successfully run their own businesses (Missiontrust). Each year, the coveted award is given to six women entrepreneurs for their extraordinary business achievements. This award program inspires both Avon ladies and women of other businesses to be all they can be and believe in themselves. This belief perpetuates itself into the everyday lives of women and contributes to the loyal patronage and selling of the Avon brand. Additionally, Avon leads the female empowerment revolution with a female CEO, Andrea Jung, who believes, “Women like myself, CEOs, can pave the way for more women to get to the top” (Brainyquotes). Emerging Markets and Globalization Historically, Avon‟s profits have depended on economies where women stayed home. The U.S. cultural ideologies that existed from Avon‟s inception 120 years ago and throughout the fifties and sixties fit well with Avon‟s product line and direct selling channel. Avon provided American women a way to be in the workplace without compromising family values and met a need for women that allowed them to network and socialize with other women while earning money at the same time. By selling to neighbors and friends, they could supplement their families‟ income. In addition, it allowed women without formal education and limited financial resources to own a business. As American women traded in their roles as housewives and entered the formal business workplace in the seventies, Avon lost customers as well as staffers. U.S. growth declined and Avon looked internally to emerging ethnic markets as well as outward to global markets for growth. America has been described as a great melting pot of cultures, which is evident in all aspects of society, including Avon. Today‟s Avon representatives might be Russian, Chinese or Brazilian. In 2004, this “army of direct sellers was responsible for $7.66 billion in global sales revenues” (Doonar 20). As the leading direct seller of cosmetics, Avon‟s success in global and emerging economies has been attributed to the financial and social opportunities that it provides women, the company‟s flexibility, adaptability and the personal relationship it creates with its customers. “Avon is promoting its image as „The Company for Women‟ by providing business opportunities for women in countries where women have fewer choices” (Avon Products Inc). Critical to Avon‟s success in emerging markets is adapting to the cultural ideology of that country or society. “Research shows that people tend to define their social context locally rather than globally; they look to local sources of support for social rewards, feedback, and identity. Family, friends, and coworkers supply influential feedback on personal consumption and provide a key basis for social comparison (Coulter). Direct selling by sales representatives to family, friends, and co-workers is an important strategy permitting Avon personal access to customers through people who are familiar and identify with the same life themes and goals. This strategy enables Avon to build customer-centric brand community in global and ethnic markets and in turn develop customer loyalty and satisfaction. Research has identified five important elements in the customer satisfaction process, (1) the product satisfaction process is active and dynamic; (2) the satisfaction process often has a strong social dimension; (3) meaning and emotion are integral; (4) the satisfaction process is context-dependent and contingent; (5) product satisfaction is intertwined with life satisfaction and quality of life (Fournier). Direct selling has enabled Avon to quickly move into ethnic and foreign markets, establish important customer-company relationships and build relevant brand communities that have created product satisfaction and life satisfaction for Avon‟s customers and profits for Avon. Selling through personal networks is important especially in “traditional” societies like the Hispanic and Latino cultures. “Interpersonal networks constitute important mechanisms in these societies that strongly influence decision making processes” (Korzenny). Most purchases are made on the recommendations of trustworthy persons usually “a family member, neighbor, someone perceived to be expert” (Korzenny). In a culture where “Hispanic women, who often function as head of their households, make many purchasing decisions for their families” (Miller), Avon is able to penetrate these markets through sales representatives who are trusted members in the community. Customer trust in the individual representative is then extended to the product and the company, strengthening customer-company identification and in turn creating satisfaction and brand loyalty. Evidence of this trust is reflected in the awards Avon has won worldwide as the most trusted brand. With the U.S. Hispanic population growing by an estimated 1.7 million annually and a current purchasing power estimated at more than $700 billion, this is a market Avon is actively courting. In 2002, Avon, upon recommendations of key sales representatives, introduced a new color line catering to U.S. Hispanics. “Centered on core cultural values, like family, tradition and religion, Eres Tu will also offer such accessories as jewelry for first holy communions and quinceaeras, sweet 16-like celebrations” (Davila). Because “we seek to express ourselves through possessions and use material possessions to seek happiness, remind ourselves of experiences, accomplishments and other people in our lives” (Belk 157), Avon‟s recognition of pivotal, context rich moments creates satisfaction within the community and strengthens the bonds between sales representative, customer and the company (McAlexander, et al). According to sales representative, Maria Diaz, “Avon is celebrating a culture, not by our differences, but by our contributions. The Eres Tu brochure is an excellent recruiting tool for me…it binds us together as a culture” (Davila). Coordinated with the Eres Tu launch, Avon entered a strategic co-marketing partnership with Latina Magazine. Avon features Latina Magazine in its brochure and in turn, Latina Magazine binds the Eres Tu brochure in the magazine quarterly for the duration of the multi-year deal (Staff). Avon has also partnered with its sales representatives, agencies, business communities and engaged Latin movie actress, Salma Hayek to promote awareness of domestic violence among Latinos, the global Avon community and the public at large. Through these actions, Avon cultivates C-C identification by creating a customer-company identity that is culturally relevant and trustworthy. They foster identity attractiveness through their spokesperson and embed their sales representatives by including their suggestions in the strategic decision making process and increase identity salience with Avon‟s involvement in cause marketing. Consequently, the result is loyalty, recruitment and company promotion. Also, Avon creates customer-centric brand community by developing synergies where “sharing meaningful consumption experiences strengthens interpersonal ties and enhances mutual appreciation for the product, the brand, and the facilitating marketers” cementing relationships as well as brand loyalty (McAlexander, et al). Avon is also extending this same attitude and strategy to its foreign markets. “In Brazil, beauty has always been more than skin deep - its big business. Brazilians spend $3 billion annually on cosmetics, and Avon has long been the industry leader” (Maxwell). In her article “Keeping Up Appearances”, Sarah Maxwell covers Tracey Olsen‟s award winning student research project on Avon‟s impact on Brazil‟s culture. According to Olsen, in a country where doctors and dentists are scarce, Avon representatives are ubiquitous and represent all walks of life. Except for the U.S., Brazil has more sales representatives than any other country in which Avon operates. While part of Avon‟s success is linked to cultural expectations - beauty is valued and taught from a very young age. What sets Avon apart from other cosmetic companies is its flexibility and ability to adapt to the needs of the community. Brazilian women, due to family considerations and workplace discrimination, are limited in job prospects. Avon provides them an opportunity to sell to family, neighbors and acquaintances. According to Olsen, “In very rural areas, women are allowed to barter for Avon goods. The representatives accept eggs, gold and food in return for Avon products and sell those products to pay their distributors” (Maxwell). Besides being welcomed for the product they sell, Avon ladies are an important source of social information to women in rural areas. Avon representatives show up regularly with their wares and brochures extending brand community even to remote areas of the Amazon. Avon has thrived in the Eastern and Central European countries, including Hungary, Romania and Poland. According to Jung, "One of our fastest-growing regions of the world has been the entire Eastern European region. We've grown at 43 percent in dollars compounded over the last several years, with 45 percent more reps every year. We call it Avon heaven” (pbs). Direct selling was an advantage to Avon who entered this market in the nineties when Central Europe was transforming from socialism to consumerism. A study of women and cosmetics conducted in Hungary and Romania from 1989 to 2001 revealed three findings (1) that ideological positions were key in whether informants used cosmetics; (2) the product involvement was affected by the extent cosmetic use was linked to key life themes and life projects; (3) cultural intermediaries were important in the dissemination of Western beauty ideals, cosmetic brands and product, and beauty instruction (Price). Avon quickly entered this market in 1991 with mass advertising, enlisted hundreds of local women as sales representatives who lined up eager for the economic opportunity, trained them to be beauty consultants and run their own businesses. Local sales representatives were able to target younger women who embraced western influences and connected appearance and attractiveness to life themes and goals such as being a good wife, being cosmopolitan and job advancement. At the same time the representatives introduced Avon products to women who were more reluctant to experiment with cosmetics and were uncertain how cosmetics were linked to their personal lives. Because sales representatives are often friends, neighbors, co- workers, they meet people in their homes, create a fun, non-threatening atmosphere where they can share beauty tips and sample the product. By establishing a one on one relationship representatives were able to act as “cultural intermediaries”, facilitating connections between Avon products, Avon Company and customers. In addition, consumer events were staged in major cities inviting women to preview product, receive trial samples, learn about related beauty care and meet Avon sales representative and sales managers. These connections are important in creating C-C identification, establishing brand community and brand loyalty; and perhaps, easing cultural change. Avon has also met success in Asian countries. Avon personal selling approach has been a perfect fit in Asian countries where extended family kinship patterns and go- betweens for contacts are important in social as well as business transactions. For instance in Japan, one‟s junmyaku (network of human contacts) is everything. Avon has done very well in Thailand where there is an inherent cultural bias of “obligation to one‟s friend and the great difficulty of saying no when approached directly.” Once again, Avon has adapted slightly for these markets including skin lightening products and altering their distribution channel. When Avon discovered that it was not customary in some Asian cultures for women to invite strangers into their homes, Avon opened beauty centers operated by independent consultants and permitted sales by sales representatives in retail settings. In addition, Avon modified its selling channel for China who banned door-to door selling in 1998. Avon now has 5,700 beauty boutiques in China operated by local independent people, in addition to 1,600 counters located in department stores or with other retailers. China represents a tremendous growth opportunity in the cosmetics industry having 20% of the world population. Avon‟s Chinese sales were $157 million in 2003, grew to $220 million in 2004 are forecasted at $600 million in 2007 (Avon). Avon will resume direct selling in China with the Chinese Government‟s September 2005 announcement of two sets of direct selling regulations. In preparation, Avon has implemented a massive training effort readying supervisors who will recruit Chinese representatives when their license is granted (Chandra). Avon‟s mission “To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women – globally” is evidenced through their customer-company interactions, brand community building, focus on satisfaction, commitment to provide learning and financial opportunities to women, and their willingness to adapt to meet these needs worldwide. Their direct selling strategy is still a competitive advantage in emerging global and ethnic cultures where it provides an economic opportunity for women. However as these markets become developed, Avon will face similar challenges as it has in the U.S. retaining and recruiting the sales representatives who are Avon‟s most important personal link to the customer. Avon‟s Future Avon has come a long way from the traditional Avon lady with her pink pill box hat and matching pink outfit from head to toe. Avon has emerged as the company for women and has done so in a manner which empowers women in a number of ways. Avon‟s projections indicate a major restructuring of the company that includes downsizing to restore growth. Avon just recently experienced an 8.16% decrease in share price due to a weak year where heightened competition, increased rivalry, and a fragile economy somehow seeped through Avon‟s doors. Andrea Jung has also recognized a lapse between senior management and consumers and plans to “de-layer” the company as to unify ties between key decision makers and the customer (D‟Innocenzio). Yet another foreseeable item that Avon sees in the future is the role women have in executive positions. Jung hopes to be an example to all and has set a standard of empowerment for women everywhere. Not only has Avon empowered women through its overall mission and values, but by example. “In the next 10 years, Jung said she believes there will be a comparable exponential change in the number of women in top positions across all of corporate America (Women in Business). Business looks optimistic for Avon‟s future and Andrea Jung and Susan Cropf are equally confident in the future of Avon. “As we look forward to celebrating Avon‟s 120th anniversary in 2006, Avon‟s star is shining more brightly than ever. Our journey of transformation continues. We have bold, exciting dreams for the future and we are on a mission to improve women‟s lives. For Avon, truly the best is yet to come.” -Andrea Jung and Susan Cropf Bibliography Agovino, Theresa. WAUSAU Daily Harold. 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