Reprinted by permission from the publisher, BenBella Books, from Your Company Sucks: It's Time to Declare War on Yourself by Mark Stevens, Copyright (c) 2011, BenBella Books. All rights reserved.

All Made Up and Looking Gorgeous: How Revlon Won Over ItsCustomers

From the day Charles Revson launched Revlon with $300, he was driven to the point of obsession to build a clientele, a following, that worshippedthe company's products, would gobble up every brand extensionhe brought to market, and would never tolerate competitors (Revson viewed them as imitators) of any kind. He would accomplish this not primarily with slick advertising campaigns (although he did advertise heavily and effectively)but first and foremost with a religious zeal to create and maintain a product line that exhilarated women in search of what I call the Marilyn Monroe Factor (more on that in the next chapter).

The achievement of a state of thrill can only be born from an unorthodox approach, as anything out of the standard playbook is just that: Standard. Meaning it's ordinary and predictable. Instead of delegating the goal of Revlon's exceptionalism to a quality control group of middle management bureaucrats, Revson took full leadership for achieving the Thrill Factor:

1. He replaced the dyes commonly used in the production of nail polish withpure pigments to provide a vastly superior appearance.

2. He tested the products on his own nails, rejecting the idea that such behavior was unbecoming in a CEO -- and a male to boot. Revson knew that the "well-respected" rules trapped companies in the straits ofmediocrity.

3. He would man the customer feedback phone lines, determined to hear for himself what women said about his products, engaging them in dialogue, and thus ensuring that none of his managers kept "bad news" from the boss. "The reason I talk to them," Revson said of the customer calls, "is that they are the real boss."

4. He vastly expanded the palette of product colors, recognizing that the ability to make his customers appear original and at the vanguard of fashion would be his most potent asset.

Today, business leaders are distanced from their products and services. Telecom executives run car companies, accountants lead retailers, financiers operate whatever enterprises they acquire. Most are textbook figureheads with book knowledge but no sense, instinct, or passion for the product they are selling and, in turn, its marketplace. This intellectual and visceral distance from those you are serving and what you are serving them renders it virtually impossible to get to thrilled.

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