The first Avon lady was packing a little lagniappe, literally and figuratively


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If you can sell books door to door, then why not perfume

The beginnings of Avon makes for an interest tale of marketing g.l.u.e (giving little unexpected extras). It’s the sweet story of a boy from upstate New York named David McConnell:

avon purple goldfish david mcconnell

At the age of 16 David started to sell books door-to-door. When his fare was not well received, McConnell resorted to a little lagniappe. David would promise a free gift in exchange for being allowed to make a sales pitch. The “little something extra” was a complimentary vial of perfume. It was a signature extra as David concocted his original scent with the aid of a local pharmacist. McConnell soon learned his customers adored his perfume, yet remained non-plussed to his books. Soon he would concentrate solely on cosmetics, starting a company called the California Perfume Company (his partner was from California) in 1886. In 1939, the company changed its name to Avon.

Who knew the first Avon Lady was actually a boy? Today, despite competition from hundreds of American and foreign brand name cosmetics, Avon is #1 in sales nationwide, with Avon Ladies (and a growing number of men) ringing doorbells coast to coast.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra for good measure) – I grew up in Haverstraw, NY. On my way to Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, NJ each day, I used to pass through a town on the state border called Suffern. Suffern was the birthplace and headquarters of the California Perfume Company. The story goes that McConnell thought that his town of Suffern on the Ramapo River resembled that of Stratford-upon-Avon in England. Not sure if I agree, but let’s not that get in the way of a good story. Here’s a one minute clip on Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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