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A Surprising Number of Consumer Products Leap Categories and Discover Multi-Chanel Success

by: Geoff Ficke

Many, many moons ago, when I was a small child growing up in Kentucky, my mother created her own customized skin care products from items she harvested from our food pantry and refrigerator. These were a type of artisan treatment regimen that had been handed down from her mother and other female relatives. I can clearly remember the distinct and wonderful scent that emanated from the kitchen as my mother milled and blended her olive oil, mayonnaise, lemon and herbal potions.

These products worked. When mom died in her mid-70’s, after a lifetime of outdoor work on a farm and endless hours of self-tanning her skin was flawless. My siblings and I do not believe she ever bought at cleanser, toner, moisturizer, night cream or any other type of cosmetic skin care product from a retail store. Mother was a child of the Depression, and as such, she was raised to be as self-sufficient as possible.

My mother also practiced a form of consumer product category jumping. Her homemade cosmetic skin care treatment was rendered from foodstuffs purchased mainly for consumption by our large brood. I doubt Hellman’s Mayonnaise, A&P Olive Oil or the United Fruit company produced their products with cosmetic usage in mind.

There are actually more examples of this type of product category jumping than one might think. You probably have experienced such multiple uses for products in your own experience. A number of specific products actually have seen sales rise perceptibly as a result of usage that differs from the manufacturer’s original intent.

One of the most famous was the well known hemorrhoid ointment Preparation H. This formula was created by the prolific scientist Dr. Sperti. It was very successful for many years and was considered the leading treatment of its day for this annoying malady. Then a funny thing happened.

Women realized that if it worked on hemorrhoids it might work on facial wrinkles. Voila, they were right and a cult-like following grew to believe Preparation H as the best option on the market to fight wrinkles, fine lines and damaged skin. The product had the added benefit of being inexpensive relative to packaged cosmetic and department skin care treatment lines such as Frances Denney, Germaine Monteil and Orlane.

Another crossover star is equally fascinating. In farm stores in rural communities across America there is a need for a livestock product that can treat horses and cattle that suffer from damage caused by thorns, thickets and rusted barbed wire fencing. The leading product in this space is an ointment called Corona.

A number of years ago I first heard from the mother of newborn baby about Corona. She raved about the creams ability to eliminate her little one’s severe diaper rash. She had tried everything, even doctor prescribed treatments to no avail. Another mom told her to drive 60 miles to the nearest Southern States store and buy a tube of Corona. She did. She was wowed and returned within a week to buy out the stores stock.

I decided to check it out for myself. I visited a Southern States store and asked the clerk how Corona Ointment was selling? He stopped and replied that until a couple years ago it sold only to farmers. But then they began to notice mothers of babies with license plates from distant counties buying multiple tubes of the product. The store was often out of stock on what had been a steady, but unspectacular selling niche product.

We use EZ-Off Oven Cleaner to remove mold from our log home. It works great. It works much better than the much more expensive mold treatment products that the DIY stores stock and advertise.

There are many other examples of products or ingredients that jump categories and enjoy cult status. You probably utilize one or more in your home, work or garden.