The Avon story is also the story of the California Perfume Company and the Union Publishing Company. In short, Avon is all about marketing, and its appeal as a cosmetics and personal care products company lie in the marketing strategies of its founder, David H. McConnell. His empire was built on appealing not to the sophisticated city dweller but to the solid middle class woman of rural America.
McConnell began his sales career as a 19-year old traveling salesman for the Union Publishing Company, selling books, magazines, and greeting cards door to door. He flourished and eventually rose to supervisor of 40 traveling sales agents. McConnell purchased a fifty percent interest in the company in 1886.
When McConnell announced his intention to concentrate on selling perfumes, his partner suggested he call the new enterprise The California Perfume Company in recognition of the abundance of flowers grown there. McConnell eventually acquired sole interest, and renamed his organization Avon, after Stratford-on-Avon in England, where a visit to the pastoral English countryside reminded him of his beloved upstate New York.
McConnell had noted the positive reaction of his female book customers to the free perfume samples he distributed as part of his “foot in the door” technique for selling books and magazines. He quickly realized that if women liked the perfume, they would be a ready market for repeat business once the perfume bottle was empty, in contrast to the one-time sale of a book. His perfume empire began with a single product, the “Little Dot Perfume Set,” and a single sales representative, Mrs. Persus Foster Eames Albee. The rest is history.
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