To Bring Change Build Emotional Connection

Justin Menkes told me this story about Andrea Jung in one of her early business development efforts at Avon.

Avon is originally the California Perfume Company established in 1886. Fast-forward to the 1990s where Avon was often considered an aging product and a tired brand. Andrea Jung had just entered the company and had diagnosed the problem – the product was considered cheap and associated with low quality and outdated styles. Andrea knew it was time to take the product up-market. But knowing the course of action, and getting everyone on the bus is another matter. Even with the strongest strategy and idea, if people aren’t emotionally connected, it’s not going get off the ground. Andrea knew she had to capture the hearts and minds of everyone in the company, so she called a big town hall meeting to introduce the new branding and product enhancements.

As her product team was introducing the new flashy colors, packaging, products and branding, Andrea looked out upon a sea of confused and angry Avon women. They didn’t understand the reason for all this seismic change. All they could think about was their reliable customers’ disappointment and the loss of their Christmas bonuses. In the minds of the Avon women, Andrea was proposing to take away their livelihood.

Andrea stopped the presentation and asked a simple question to the audience, “How many of you use Avon products? Raise your hand.” As the Avon ladies looked around the room and saw how few among them actually used their own products, they understood how much trouble the company was in. In one singular moment Andrea empathetically understood their point of view and was able to pose a question to allow them to realize the urgency of their situation and the need for change. The rest was easy because now Avon had thousands of ambassadors for the new brand and product.

The message is this: don’t think the strength of a strategy or change idea will carry the day. Ultimately you have to win the hearts and minds of the people.