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Beauty Queen

Andrea Jung never closed "the cultural gap" at Avon, but she did successfully export its "message of empowering women," reports Philip Delves Broughton in a Wall Street Journal review of Beauty Queen by Deborrah Himsel (5/7/14). Direct sales was the means of empowerment, "women selling to other women, often in their own homes." This could be something very different, depending on the locale: "In Argentina, Avon Ladies did a healthy business selling tires," for example.

Andrea’s challenge involved reconciling "the entrepreneurial, sell-anything culture of her reps with the command-and-control methods of a corporate marketer … She also wanted a more consistent global brand and was determined to rid the Avon Lady of her fusty image and remake her as a peddler of ‘masstige’ products — affordable, but with a whiff of prestige." She apparently was uncomfortable that Avon’s customers tended to come from "the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum."

She stumbled in other ways — a baby goods division that never took off, an acquisition of an "upmarket jewelry company" that ended in a $263 million writedown, and a bribery scandal in China that resulted in Avon paying a $135 million fine to the US Government plus another $350 million in legal fees. But she did transform Avon from a company that was 60% US sales to one that was 70% "in developing markets." Today, she is CEO of Grameen America, a nonprofit that helps "poor women build small businesses."