Once one of the biggest names in household and personal care, Fuller Brush Company is on the comeback trail.
Can the Fuller Brush Company woo a new generation of consumers who, quite frankly, may have never heard of the iconic firm?
Founded in 1906, Fuller Brush grew to become one of most respected names in the household and personal care space, selling brushes and cleaning products to the masses via an army of door-to-door salesmen.
The Fuller Brush Man—a term coined by the *Saturday Evening Post in 1922—was part of pop culture, enjoying media placement everywhere from radio shows to the silver screen.Movies goers even headed out to see “The Fuller Brush Man,” a 1948 action/adventure/comedy starring Red Skelton, and the 1950 follow-up, “The Fuller Brush Girl,” featuring Lucille Ball.
By the mid 1960s, the number of Fuller Brush salesmen and women hit 7,000 and its catalog business distribution reached 5 million.
But since then there have been a lot of changes—not only in how Americans shop for products and clean their homes—but also for the company. Ownership bounced a round a bit; first to Consolidated Foods (later known as Sara Lee) in 1968, followed by a reacquisition by private investors in 1989. In 1995, Fuller Brush had became part of CPAC, based in Leicester, NY, and in 2007, CPAC was acquired by Buckingham Capital Partners, a private investment firm.
So just how does a century-old brand reconnect with consumers who are at least a generation removed from the brand’s heyday and are more at home buying cleaning and personal care brand at big boxes and surfing for product reviews on their smartphones?
For starters, Fuller Brush is bulking up its product roster with a keen eye on design, technology and value. Couple that with efforts to enhance its marketing endeavors and expand its presence on more retailer shelves.
“We already have over 30 new products in the process of coming to market, with several other initiatives planned for the end of the year. In addition, we have a robust PR and social marketing strategy, that we will be expanding in 2012 that has helped us relaunch our website and e-commerce initiatives,” chief marketing officer for Fuller Brands, Vincent D’Alleva, told Happi.
This venerable firm is a relative newcomer to retail; having only hit stores in 2004, eight years after the firm began selling its wares directly to consumers via mail order catalog. It has been on QVC since 2002. Currently, the company is broadening relationships with key retailers including Publix, Home Depot and Orchard Supply.
But there are still independent sales reps selling Fuller’s products too.
“While we can't speak to the percentage of sales that is done via our direct independent sales representatives, we can say that they are very much a part of our company. They continue to evolve beyond traditional door-to-door methods to those of telemarketing and e-commerce,” D’Alleva said.
New Product Rollouts
Part of Fuller’s plan for growth includes new product initiatives. The firm’s Fuller Brush Original Collection, for example, can be used on a number of surfaces, including wood floors, granite, leather and stainless steel.
“Our Original Collection of cleaners and brushes bring a new level of design and quality to existing problems,” D’Alleva said. “The Original brushes are reminiscent of our best sellers, but using new materials and colors such as mahogany-colored wood and brass-plated metal for a premium appearance to these products that you use every day in your home.”
“Each one of our Clean'n Easy products delivers amazing, superior performance to most of the products you are familiar with at the mass market. That's because we are using unique, patented formulations and delivery systems to make each product easy to use and to better clean your home,” he said.
The range includes Glass Gel, a unique gel spray formulation that allows homeowner to use a fraction of the amount of cleaner they would normally use with a liquid product, and Disposal-Clean, a foaming product that’s sprayed into the garbage disposal. The foam fills and expands inside the unit to clean all the surfaces of the disposal, especially underneath the rubber seal. While most other products only deodorize, Fuller contends its foam formula breaks down stuck-on food and truly cleans the disposal of all debris.
The range also incorporates Clean N’ Easy Stainless Steel Gel, which uses micro-encapsulated silicon beads to clean and polish your stainless steel appliances and surfaces. According to the company, the beads break and mix as the gel exits the sprayer and gives an “amazingly clean and shiny surface that also is excellent at hiding fingerprints.”
And in a sure nod to its heritage, Fuller Brush offersa variety of hairbrushes for both men and women, and its Stanley Home Products division continues to offer personal care items like shampoo and lotions—a business line it embarked on in 1943.
As a privately held company, the Great Bend KS firm wouldn’t discuss specifics on its past financial performance, but company executives say they expect gains this year.
With a long history behind it and strategy for the future, D’Alleva told HAPPI, “We're certainly planning on growth in 2012.”