Leaving the Hive
When John Replogle (MBA '93) became CEO of Burt's Bees in 2006, sales had been growing by over 30% per year over the previous four years across multiple, increasingly diversified channels of distribution in the United States and abroad. The company's brand leadership in the natural personal care category—itself growing by 15% per year over the same period—was secure, despite growing competition. Replogle's mantra was that all this momentum gave Burt's Bees a unique opportunity to bring natural personal care to the forefront of mainstream personal care in the coming years, a revolution that would be consistent with the original vision of Burt's Bees founder Roxanne Quimby, ...view middle of the document...
Among them, a complete line of hair products would provide efficacious hair care thanks to unique and natural ingredients. The subtly fragrant "Super Shiny" grapefruit and sugar beet shampoo, for example, would be sold in a plain-shaped yellowish plastic bottle (made with 80% post-consumer recycled materials), decorated with a still-life drawing of its ingredients, and marked "98.80% natural." Replogle and his teams were confident that these products, while arguably less "quirky" than earlier offerings of the brand, delivered authentically on the company's mission, which they spelled out as follows:
We at Burt's Bees are very committed to the environment and using natural ingredients. We use recycled packaging which you can use again or recycle in an attempt to avoid creating additional garbage on the planet. Whenever possible, Burt's Bees uses ingredients offered by Mother Nature, not synthetics manufactured in a lab. You will see a percentage natural on every single package.
Critics, and some customers, commented that Burt's Bees was becoming too commercial, losing the authentic elements that had led to its success. To those who doubted that the brand had mainstream potential, though, Replogle pointed out that with only 10% of "pseudo-natural" brand Aveeno's advertising budget, Burt's Bees had 54% brand awareness, 26% trial, and 19% usage, as compared to Aveeno's scores of 95%, 29% and 19%, respectively (see consumer conversion data in Exhibit 1). Still, the question remained: how could Burt's Bees realize Quimby's vision of growing the brand without distancing itself from the people, values and narratives that made it successful thus far?
Roxanne Quimby was driving to work when she spotted Burt Shavitz, a reclusive beekeeper, selling honey from the tailgate of his pick-up truck on the side of a rural Maine road.' It was 1984, and Quimby, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, had moved to Maine to pursue a life of "self-sufficient harmony with the land." She purchased a cabin without running water or electricity and took a job as a waitress, just to pay the bills. "I didn't want a career, I didn't want a job. I didn't want to employ any skills—I was just rejecting it all!" she said. "I truly believed that the only way I could live a life that didn't compromise the things I didn't want to compromise was to live in a very rural setting.”
Quimby and Shavitz struck up a dose friendship; he taught her beekeeping and within a few months, they were in business together. Quimby remarked:
Immediately, I saw an opportunity. Burt was selling honey in gallon jars for 12 bucks. You could get more money by selling it in smaller containers to tourists. So I took over the business end. I put honey up in cute little beehive-shaped jars. I made pretty handmade labels and started making candles out of beeswax. Then I took them to the little craft fairs in the little towns!
Quimby found a recipe book of 19"-century beeswax...