Thursday, 5 November 2009

New Model Army of Avon Ladies prepares to invade Latin America

A little feature in Brand Channel has caught Fashionista's eye all about Avon, that curiously invasive yet thoroughly personal brand, now over 120 years old, which became so deeply etched in Western culture that millions of consumers who have never experienced Avon's products know all about "Avon calling" and the Avon Ladies.

After seeing its sales take a bit of a battering in North America and China, Avon has been refocusing on sales to the cash-strapped by (i) promoting lower-priced products, and (ii) heavily targeting Latin America, where, the company says, people spend a high proportion of their income on beauty products.

Bucking recent market trends towards spending vast sums on online advertising, Avon says it is to hire more sales reps, even while cutting 1,200 other jobs over the next four years. Says the article in BrandChannel, "It sounds like a plan that puts the focus on one-on-one customer interaction, which was what built the brand, rather than a broader blanketing of media messages".

Indeed, says Fashionista, one-on-one is more than just a labour-intensive way of buying of customers. If you have Avon ladies who demonstrate that they love their product and love their customer contact, what you have is a first-class relationship. You might buy your Coca-Cola because you love the product, but that's an impersonal, unrequited love. With the Avon ladies, if you let them into your shopping life, you've got a two-way relationship -- and it's much harder to break. No-one sheds a tear if you stop buying that Coke, but if you stop buying Avon you can visualise exactly whose heart you're breaking.