by: Geoff Ficke

Classic French Milled Soap Offers a Lesson in Creating
A Proprietary Marketing Niche for Common Products

One of the most difficult realities an aspiring Consumer Product Marketer must confront is how to present their Brand as a fresh, original, worthwhile counter-offering to their much more established competition. What makes the line, service or item unique? Modern Marketing Consultants call this trait a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). This is a fancy inside baseball term that simply identifies the product “niche” the brand will fill.

This is the most challenging, and crucial item that must be successfully considered and answered before a customized Marketing Strategy, Sales Model and Business Plan can be assembled. Think about it. If your product, service or project is not identifiably different from the competition, why would it be successful? For Entrepreneurs, Inventors and Small Businesses differentiation is crucial. For large established corporations, product replication and cloning is much more achievable. They have the Marketing and Sales Promotion Resources to push product into distribution and be followers. New entities typically do not.

So how can you, the Entrepreneur with a great product idea, identify and nail a strong USP. One of the best ways to approach the problem is to study history. In most Consumer Product categories there are stellar examples of Innovators who discovered a niche and filled the space with product that addressed perceived consumer benefits.

Let’s consider the simple bar of soap. Soap has been produced and used for thousands of years. Various techniques have been used to create the saponification process throughout the ages. Beef tallow, glycerin, lye and other agents have been used to provide the cleansing performance people have expected when using soap. In modern times bar soap has become a commodity. Liquid soap has come into vogue in the past 25 years.

However, there are specialized milling processes that have been utilized for several centuries to create premium soap bars. The most famous of these is French Milled Soap. This technique is also referred to as triple-milled.

For most of history soap has been a bar by bar, hand produced product. Industrialization created the opportunity to mass produce Branded Personal Care soaps such as Procter & Gamble’s famous Ivory Soap. However, 250 years ago the venerable, London-based House of Yardley introduced French Milled Soaps that became popular with Europe’s aristocracy. This changed the Marketing of humble Personal Care Soap and helped lead to the popularization and advancement of Perfumery, Aromatherapy and Bath and Body care products.

Yardley only made soaps from the finest ingredients and essential perfume oils and used special machinery to press separated, dried and cured soap flakes. This triple-pressing, called French Milling, requires custom machinery and separates the lye which normally remains present in hand, or cold process produced soap bars. Owing to the slow curing of the soap flakes, sometimes over many weeks, and the multiple times each bar is pressed and processed before it is finished, French Milled Soap is more expensive than cold processed soaps. It also lathers more richly and is preferred by consumers sensitive to the application of harsh ingredients such as lye to the face.

The special manufacturing process required to produce French Milled Soaps also allows for unlimited shapes, design cues and special visual effects that are not possible in cold processed bar soaps. The result is that the market for French Milled Soap is wonderfully diverse, creative and artesian.

Yardley is still a wonderful British Brand over 250 years on. The Company has enjoyed two Royal Warrants assigned by the House of Windsor and has prospered as a Perfumer and Cosmetics distributor with international reach for most of the 20th Century. However, it is the luxury, individually wrapped highly fragranced French Milled Soap coffret sets that has been the base of the Yardley success.

This is an example of a Brand utilizing a unique production process, creating mystique and perfecting a customized Marketing Strategy that has stood the test of time. Apply this concept to your project. We have used variants of it repeatedly with clients in various Product Development campaigns and Sales categories. The goal must be to tell a different story about how, and why your product is unique, an enhancement on existing competitive products and deserves to be purchased and utilized by the consumer.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.