Rubies in the Orchard: Book Review

Serial entrepreneur and billionaire Lynda Resnick's book "Rubies in the Orchard" provides a fascinating glimpse into the marketing strategies behind brands like POM Wonderful, FIJI Water, Teleflora and the Franklin Mint. Part autobiography and part business book, the highly readable tome chronicled how Lynda rose from rags to riches and deployed her marketing smarts to seed and grow four highly successful businesses.

Written in a witty and conversational fashion, Rubies in the Orchard presents an in-depth glimpse into four very different industries. In the section on Teleflora, Lynda described how marketing is "all about listening. You want to be the equivalent of a good friend". She then described how an attribute can be a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) based on the following:

1) Is it true? The honesty factor is essential.

2) Is it clear, concise and easy to understand? Keep it simple.

3) Does its unique quality answer a need in the marketplace, whether consumers know it or not? That is your success barometer, because if consumers need it, chances are that you will succeed.

The sections on POM Wonderful, the billion dollar global business focused on 100% pomegranate juice, were especially enlightening. I learnt that most juices of exotic "superfruits" like pomegranate or cranberry are often diluted with "fillers" like apple, pear or grape juice. In developing the final product, the unique shape of the bottle of pomegranate juice became an important dimension of marketing, allowing it to stand out from the supermarket aisles.

Unlike most of her competitors, Lynda does almost everything inhouse - from the growing of the fruits in thousands of acres of orchard, R&D process involved in creating new products, extraction of the juice through a patented manufacturing process, to the advertising and packaging of the product. By doing so, she is able to control every step of the process, particularly the critical packaging, advertising and promotional stages.

A natural storyteller with a spunky edge, Lynda revealed how she bid a jaw dropping US$211,000 for the legendary Jackie Kennedy's fake pearl necklace, and turned that into gross profit of US$26 million by making copies of the "authentic pearls" and selling them in her Franklin Mint business. Targeting collectors and fashionistas at a price of US$200 a piece, the spheres of ordinary glass were given a "Letter of Authenticity" to ascertain their value - a clever sleight of hand!

In the chapter "Eyeballs Ain't Enough", Lynda proclaimed that she was "not focused on eyeballs - that's a part of the anatomy that's easily distracted and often glazed over with consumer apathy". Spending only US$14 million to market POM in its first four years, she shared how she crafted compelling advertisements that pair catchy images with clever copy (example below). We're also given a run through of POM's Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) strategy and how channels like product placements, celebrity endorsements, television, newspapers, magazines, and public relations are deployed.

Image source

Exemplifying Lynda's approach to IMC, the book highlights how product programming was effectively used for a Mother's Day campaign headlined "Teleflora Presents America's Favourite Mom". Through television production, authentic storytelling, public involvement and the use of multiple platforms, America's Favourite Mom, done in collaboration with the 21,000 florists that were part of the Teleflora network, resulted in skyrocketing sales and tremendous PR mileage.

Unfortunately, the last two chapters of the book were more rhetoric than anything else. Here, the author preached about the benefits and brickbacks of the Internet, and warned about the dangers of global warming. While Lynda's string of businesses did employ some elements of social media and online community building, they seemed to be add-ons to its more prominent mainstream marketing strategy. As a moderate greenie, however, I liked how FIJI Water strove to be the only "Carbon Negative" bottled water on the planet.

Would you drink "green" Fiji water if Megan Fox drinks it too? (image source)

Regardless of whether you're a budding entrepreneur or a corporate intrapreneur, Rubies in the Orchard provides several useful gems, seen through the eyes of a highly marketing savvy lady entrepreneur.

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