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 are some other consumer outreach efforts?

Cottrell-Brown: Our first initiative was a giving promotion.  We actually raised proceeds by collaborating with a retailer such as Sally Beauty Supply.  We leveraged our General Treatment brand as a form of brand recognition to raise awareness for domestic abuse. What brand name better speaks to domestic abuse than General Treatment?

We committed about $50,000. On the Southside of Chicago, we basically gutted a kitchen and put in a salon inside. We call it the General Treatment Beauty Center.  We actually hooked up with some of the beauty schools there in the market place.

BE:  Do you have a special focus for male consumers? How has research helped you approach that market?

Cottrell-Brown: When we conducted focus groups, we took in a name we thought was hip. We chose Urbane because [it] means handsome, sophisticated.  We took it into the focus group and those guys were like, “They must think we can’t spell.  This must be Ebonics.”  Because they thought it was Urban.

They saw Ultra Sheen [and] they were like, “That’s for me.  Now, I get that.  That’s what we want.”  So, that’s how we came up with the new brand Ultra Sheen Men.  It came right out of their mouths, something they could resonate with.  We’re looking forward to getting that in the marketplace in the next month.

BE: What’s your approach to the international market?

Brown: We take a little bit of a different approach when we talk about international because it is more about hair texture than skin color.  So our marketing approach and out-of-the-box tactics take on a little bit of a different light.

Hair texture allows you to speak to a much broader audience. Certainly, when you’re talking about West Africa, there are people who look like us.  When we talk about places like Latin America or the Caribbean, you get a much broader range of hair texture as well as skin color.

But we know that people of African descent require certain products to be able to maintain their hair. We think we can really make some significant gain because we have relatively very little international distribution.

BE:  So what will JPC look like in the next five years?

Brown: Five years from now, I’d like to be sitting across from this table and have you, “Eric, did you ever envision that you’d be talking about an IPO [initial public offering]?”  Wouldn’t that be great to be able to say that Johnson Products, which was one of the first publicly-held African American companies, would be public again?

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