CEO, Avon Products, Inc.
Andrea Jung joined Avon in 1993 as a consultant, and a year later became president of its product marketing group for the United States. Her job was to reverse a decade of slumping sales and to change the way women thought of Avon and its products. In short, she had to take the company from a brand readily recognized but considered outdated by women and give it a hipper, more youth-oriented image. Jung proved to be just the right person for the task.
"I came to Avon because I fell in love with the concept that 115 years ago, the company gave women a chance to make money even before they could vote. When I started in marketing in the early nineties, my job was to reinvent the company's image without abandoning that heritage."
Andrea Jung was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1959. When she was two, her family moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts, where Jung grew up with her younger brother, Mark. Her parents immigrated separately to Canada from China. They met while attending college in Toronto. Her father was born in Hong Kong. He received his master's degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her mother, born in Shanghai, was a chemical engineer before abandoning engineering in favor of becoming a concert pianist.
Jung's parents live in Boston, where her father is a partner in an architectural firm. "My parents kept the best aspects of the Asian culture, and they Americanized the family," Jung said in an interview with GoldSea.com , a Web site for Asian Americans. "My mother was a great example for me. She was a working mother with a good career, and from my father, I inherited his even keel, a balance between humor and taking things seriously."
Jung was an excellent student in elementary school. She also excelled in Mandarin language classes, which she attended on Saturday mornings. On weekday afternoons, she took piano lessons. Her mother introduced her to the piano at age five, teaching her basic chords. In high school, Jung became involved in school politics. She was elected class secretary and later student body president. She already spoke fluent Mandarin and as a teenager took classes in Cantonese and French.
In 1975, Jung entered Princeton University, and graduated in 1979 magna cum laude (with highest honors) with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature. She surprised her friends and family, however, by abandoning thoughts of a law career, instead opting for the world of business.
After graduating, Jung planned to work several years in retail and then return to school to pursue a law degree. She joined the executive training program at Bloomingdale's, an upscale New York department store chain, after being recruited at a college job fair. At Bloomingdale's, Jung learned how tough it was for a woman to succeed in a business world run mostly by men. She soon lost her timidity and became more aggressive in her job. She also realized that only a woman could understand the shopping philosophy of other women.
In 1987, Jung went to work for I. Magnin department stores, where she worked as general merchandising manager at the firm's San Francisco headquarters. Within several years, she was promoted to senior vice president. After nearly five years, Jung was hired by rival Neiman-Marcus to work at the company's Dallas headquarters. She became executive vice president in charge of women's apparel, cosmetics, and accessories. But after two years, Jung became bored, saying she felt there was little creativity in marketing the company's products to its mostly upscale, high-income customers.
Jung left Neiman-Marcus to go out on her own, becoming a consultant for Avon. After a few months, she accepted a full-time job with Avon as head of its U.S. product marketing group. Two years later, she became the company's president of global marketing. "When I came to Avon, it was perceived as an outdated, old-fashioned beauty company," she told Diane Seo in the Los Angeles Times. "We had great products, but women were saying, "This is my grandmother's makeup brand.'" Jung is generally credited with revamping that notion.
Immediately, Jung recognized the importance of the brand, complete with the image of the Avon Lady as a cultural icon. The image, however, was sadly outdated. Sean Mehegan described the Avon Lady in Brandweek as 'that matronly figure from the 1960s with the beehive 'do who showed up at one's doorstep hawking rouge and lipstick." In addition, by the 1990s, as more and more women joined the workforce, Avon ladies (and men) found that when they rang the doorbell, there were fewer answers. The customers had changed; most were working women who conducted their Avon transactions in the office.
When Jung entered the world of commerce, it was not with the approval of her parents, who felt she was squandering her expensive Ivy League education. "No one in my family had a retail or marketing background. They were professionals," Jung told ColdSea. "They didn't understand just what I was doing by going into retailing. After I started, though, it got into my blood. I knew this was what I wanted."
In 1994, Jung spearheaded change by introducing the successful Avon Apparel line. She also ditched about 30 to 40 percent of the old fragrance offerings and launched new ones, including Far Away, Millennia, and Natori that came in sleek, upscale packaging. The new fragrances also came with higher price tags, but customers responded favorably. Avon's U.S. fragrance sales rose 8 percent in 1995, roughly three times the industry average for sales gains in that area. Cosmetic costs increased as well, but remained lower than competitors, and were accompanied by slicker packaging and catalogs. The firm also became an innovator with products like Anew, the first alpha hydroxy acid skin cream on the market, designed to conceal wrinkles. Jung set out to capitalize on those kinds of successes by pushing related skin-care items.
In addition to focusing on Avon products themselves, Jung came up with better ways to pitch them. In 1995, she launched the "Just Another Avon Lady" campaign. The campaign featured Olympic athletes Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1962-) and Becky Dyroen-Lancer (1971-), and eventually tied in to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Avon was the official fragrance and cosmetics sponsor of the games, and also sponsored "The Olympic Woman," a multimedia exhibition in Atlanta spotlighting women athletes. "We believe it was more than just an Olympic sponsorship," Jung explained to Mehegan in Brandweek. "We were sponsors of women in the Olympics. We understand women and women's causes, and we went out on a grass roots effort to teach women and communicate winning in sports as part of self-esteem."
In 1996, Brandweek magazine named Jung one of the Marketers of the Year. She was promoted to executive vice president and put in charge of Avon"s product research and development, marketing research, strategic planning, and joint ventures and alliances. The next year, 1997, Jung launched the "Dare to Change Your Mind about Avon" ad campaign.
When Avon began looking for a new CEO in 1997, Jung was thought to be the leading contender. Instead, someone from outside the company, Charles Perrin, was hired from battery manufacturer Duracell. Instead of leaving the company as many insiders expected, Jung remained on board and forged an excellent working relationship with Perrin. She became president of the company in 1998. In 1999, Jung's perseverance paid off when she was picked as Avon's CEO after the departure of Perrin.
In 1999, at age forty, Andrea Jung became CEO of Avon Products, Inc., after six years with the company. At that time, she was only one of three women heading Fortune 500 companies.
During her first year as CEO, Jung visited twenty countries, including Japan, Poland, Russia, and China, where she addressed gatherings of Avon employees in fluent Mandarin. "I've met representatives from around the world … and I know that women today are far more alike than not," she told Harper's Bazaar. "Self-esteem is as important for them as their physical appearance. It's inspirational to me, particularly because my parents are from China. Consider the business opportunities that we're giving women in China, and then they see a Chinese American at the top. It's not so much about me; it's more that these women see that it's possible."
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