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Wisconsin Naming Partners Advisory Board

H. Signe Ostby

Signe Ostby

Software Publishing Corporation

I joined Procter & Gamble in 1976 as a Brand Assistant on a test market product, Comet Liquid. Giving trial size versions of new products to consumers was the most important promotion to launch new products, as it gave customers a chance to try the product without paying for it. At that time most of the trial sizes were delivered through the mail or hung on front doors by crews of people. As you can imagine, those introductions cost a huge amount of money! My first major project was to run a test of In-Store Sampling to determine the effectiveness of handing out trial sizes in the stores compared to the costs of the other delivery methods. It was a huge coordination effort with R&D, package design, manufacturing, market research, sales, distribution, and brand services. But it was a success! I became the “expert” within the company about this type of introduction and it was because of that experience that another brand management person, Scott Cook, contacted me about using this type of sampling for a new food product.

In addition to Comet Liquid, I worked on Dawn, Ivory Snow and Dreft while at Procter & Gamble. After three years there, I moved to California and joined the Clorox Company working on Clorox 2, Twice as Fresh, and a group of new products that were either developed internally at Clorox, licensed from a German company, or acquired from local sources. New products were the “sexy” products to be managing, but in the early 80’s, nothing compared to the hype around the new personal computer market. At that point, I decided to see if I could apply the concepts I learned managing consumer packaged goods products to the emerging high-tech marketplace. Despite the fact that I didn’t have a electronic engineering or computer science background, I talked my way into a brand-new start-up, Software Publishing Corporation, which made productivity software for personal computers.

One of the first products that I worked on was a new word processor under development. Working ’til all hours with the engineering team to make sure this product was designed for regular business people, we came up with some very innovative features. At the same time, we knew that Microsoft was developing their new word processor and would launch just after we were scheduled to ship ours. Knowing that getting potential customers to try our product and have them make the decision to buy before they saw the Microsoft product would be instrumental in our success, I turned to my old friend, the trial size. I worked with my product development team to come up with a way to disable some key features of the product, and put an easy to use “getting started” card in the envelope of the floppy disk. We gave thousands of copies to the retail stores, handed them out at trade shows, put 800 #’s in our advertising where people could call and request a sample. The trial-size promotion helped catapult pfs:write to the top of the non-secretarial market segment of the word processing category.

After leaving Software Publishing in 1988, I started my marketing strategy consulting practice and worked for many of the personal computer hardware and software companies, including: IBM, HP – printers and software, Apple, Epson, Egghead, Radio Shack, Compaq, and a wide variety of software companies. In addition, I developed a seminar series which taught consumer packaged goods concepts to high-tech companies selling their products through retail stores.

Guiding the marketing strategy of a complex, multi-product company is an evolutionary step from being the product manager of a single product. The wide range of skills I learned as a product manager have been instrumental in my entire career and helped me transition successfully from the disciplined consumer packaged goods market to the high-tech area.