In the process of improving the firm’s financial condition, Mr. Kiam launched an aggressive advertising and marketing campaign, with last year’s ad budget topping $25 million.
Remington employees have responded as positively to Mr. Kiam’s advertising message as the public has. Employment has increased 75% since 1979, and the average Remington worker has been with the company for 14 years.
Now that the company is solidly back on the profit trail, Mr. Kiam thinks Remington can continue to expand its market share in its biggest cash cow–electric shavers. He sees further market expansion in the U. S., where electric-shaver market penetration is still well below that of other Western countries.
He is banking on growth from other consumer products as well, although industry experts point out that Remington’s recent attempts to enter new product areas have not made a major contribution to earnings. One of the latest offerings is a home haircut kit.
However, he expects to sustain growth by marketing the already established quality name associated with Remington. And, who else can better market its products than Mr. Kiam?
“When I started doing the shaver commercials in London, our advertising agency wanted to get an actor to do it. But I felt that if anyone was going to tell the Remington story, it had to be me,’ he recalls.
Remington has been profiting from that move ever since. Still, promoting your own company does have its pitfalls. It has placed further time contraints on Mr. Kiam’s schedule. He has to work harder and longer, and there are hours he spends on TV shots that might be better spent at the office.
Still, it has had no effect on the way he manages his business, he says, and in many respects it enhances his ability to communicate the company’s message to Remington employees.
SELF-PROMOTER. Indeed, it takes a particular kind of manager to promote his own company. He can’t be introverted or tongue-tied, and he has to have something to say that no one else can say for him, Mr. Kiam suggests.
In Mr. Kiam’s case, he tells viewers he’ll give them their money back if they’re dissatisfied with the product. “Who else can say that to our customers?’ he asks.
Undoubtedly, placing yourself in the public eye as promoter of your own products places an executive in a unique situation. “All of a sudden you are no longer just an individual, you represent a company. And that kind of recognition just doesn’t fade away,’ he submits.
For example, Mr. Kiam tells the story of a desperate call from the president of a San Francisco publishing company who, like Mr. Kiam, had been doing TV commercials to promote his company. Unfortunately, the executive had been arrested for drunk driving. “He asked me what he should do, and I told him to get off the air quickly,’ Mr. Kiam emphasizes.
Then there’s always the risk of promoting a company as a one-man show. For one thing, the question arises, what happens once Mr. Kiam departs?
That’s anybody’s guess. However, Mr. Kiam himself doesn’t seem very concerned about that scenario because he’s not interested in retiring. “We have become a symbol of an LBO that really worked out well, and when you have a good company and a good product going for you, you don’t think about retiring,’ he asserts.
What he does think about, however, is how he can stimulate other managers to make more products in the U. S. and to expand their exports throughout the world. He has been known to espouse his faith in American workers on many occasions and he has called on U. S. managers to fight back against foreign competition instead of buckling under.
He has also made a lifetime crusade of promoting the entrepreneurial spirit in America, which he elaborates on extensively in his book, Going For It.
“I have a job to do and I try to do it well. All I can hope is that others do the same,’ Mr. Kiam says.