Thursday, December 20, 2007

A resurgent Kiwi helps redefine the shoe-care product category

I love stories of companies resuscitating old brands by creating innovative new products. It shows that "maturity" doesn't have to be the end of growth.

Today in the Wall Street Journal, a front page article by Julie Jargon discusses Kiwi, the ancient shoe-polish brand available in every drugstore (link - $$). When a new CEO, Brenda Barnes, was appointed to head Sara Lee, Kiwi's owner, in 2005, she looked to reinvigorate the company's growth.

The prescription was simple: Kiwi studied the market by asking customers what they needed from shoe products. (The most recent podcast, with Tony Ulwick, discussed how to get customers to tell you what they want.) Then they created products that matched what customers really wanted.

They learned: more focus on the inside of the shoe, its freshness, and less focus on polishing the outside. Presto! A line of new products, fresh packaging and merchandising, and an old brand beginning to grow again.

It's enough to make you want to check your closet for old shoes that need polishing up.

(Photo: Kiwi Fresh Force, "The only shoe freshener with a revolutionary upside-down application," courtesy of Kiwi)

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