How to Remake Your Company Like Johnson Products

The maker of Ultra Sheen is once again minority-owned with a bold strategy to conquer ethnic haircare

BE: What is your growth strategy that’s going to distinguish JPC in the ethnic haircare market?

Brown: Our vision is very simply to be the number one ethnic haircare manufacturer in the world of ethnic beauty care products.  We’re not going to limit ourselves just to hair.  But right now, that’s the area that we operate in.

Now what is going to get us there?  We look at innovation a lot differently than just products and formulas that go into those bottles and jars that we sell.  We look at innovation in terms of process.  We look at innovation in terms of how we communicate to our consumer.

BE: In terms of communication with the consumer, how has it changed from the way JPC used to reach them, whether it was through Soul Train or other marketing strategies?

Brown: We’re evolving in a sense that I think a lot of companies have gotten away from that.  Multinational companies like P&G, in general, like to do things as broad as possible.  They’ll spend a million dollars on a commercial and hopefully catch everybody in that net.

When Johnson was being built, it was almost a consumer-at-a-time approach where it was involved with setting up things at churches and parks. I think the reason everybody knows Johnson is because they got involved with people and their lifestyle. We want to have an emotional involvement and responsibility with our consumer and the community that our consumer lives in.

We did a model search, and you don’t know how many times I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I remember Johnson Products because of some scholarship that they did.”  Or, “I remember Johnson Products because they had a beauty school.”

Cottrell-Brown: I don’t believe that one medium can deliver the message.  I truly believe that it takes a well-rounded marketing mix.  You need the PR piece to touch the community.  You need to be in radio.  You need to be outdoors.  Today, I just think [technology is] great because with social media you really can engage the consumer and live with them day in and day out with Facebook and Twitter.

BE:  Share your strategies in digital media and social networks.  How have you connected with the consumers?

Cottrell-Brown: We just mentioned the model search; that is a legacy promotion.  It was basically communicated in the past to the consumer via print.  For the first time, we used Facebook.

Once we had them involved in the contest, we began to communicate back to them.  We actually started a little sorority of these different models.  We had over 1,200 girls and we were talking to them all the time.  Guess what?  On Facebook, they started talking to each other.

So, it really created the awareness of what we were doing [and] the awareness of the brand.  They became these little ambassadors for us. We had over 40,000 registered unique voters [and] 250,000 hits over that 90-day period.  So it was pretty incredible.

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