CNS. INC., AND 3M: BREATHE RIGHT® NASAL STRIP
"When we first began marketing this product, what was so gratifying, particularly as a physician were the literally thousands of letters and phone calls we would receive talking about how much better people slept at night. Almost all the letters began with "thank you, thank you, thank you!" Just three thank you's. It was, I haven't gotten a good night's sleep like this in 10 years."
What is Dr. Dan Cohen, CEO of CNS, Inc., talking about? Its Breathe Right® nasal strips, the innovative adhesive pad with a small spring inside that, when attached to the nose, pulls the nasal passages open and makes it easier to breathe. Since its introduction in the United States, Breathe Right strips have been coveted by athletes hoping to improve their performance through increased oxygen flow, snorers (and more often, snorers' spouses) hoping for a sound night's sleep, and allergy and cold sufferers looking for relief for their stuffed noses.
HOW THIS WEIRD-LOOKING STRIP CAME ABOUT
The Breathe Right® strip was invented by Bruce Johnson, who suffered from chronic nasal congestion. At times he would put straws or paper clips up his nose at night to keep his nasal passages open. After tinkering in his workshop for years, he came up with a prototype design for the Breath Right® strip. He brought the prototype to CNS, which was in the sleep disorders diagnostic equipment business at the time. Dr. Cohen knew instantly the market for the strips would be huge. After the products received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and became successful in the market CNS divested its other interests and went to work marketing the strips full time.
Being a small company, CNS did not have the budget to launch a large-scale marketing campaign. But it got the break it needed when Jerry Rice, the wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers won the 1995 Superbowl. The entire nation became aware of the product overnight, and demand for the strips increased dramatically. An indication of this national awareness was discussion on TV talk shows and even appearances of the strip in cartoons.
EVERYBODY HAS A NOSE: THE DECISION TO GO INTERNATIONAL
The problems that the Breath Right® strip solves - snoring, congestion - are not unique to the US population. Also, with the media being so global today, people around the world were seeing US athletes wearing the strip and wondering how they could get their noses on some. CNS decided to take Breath Right® international. But because it was still a relatively small company and had no experience in the global market place, it opted to take on a distribution partner that had extensive global outlets already in place as well as the ability to market the product abroad. 3M, makers of such products as Post-It notes and the leader in stick-to-skin products around the world became the international distributor for Breath Right® strips.
David Reynolds-Gooch, International Business Manager at 3M, explains that the strips fit in well with 3M's existing adhesive line of first-aid products and are sold in channels with which 3M has extensive leverage: pharmacies, hypermarkets and food markets. 3M agreed to take control of all the marketing and communication responsibilities in addition to the distribution in return for a percentage of the sales revenue of the strips. The strips are "co-branded" in the international markets. The packages say both Breath Right® and 3M.
BREATIHING RIGHT AROUND THE WORLD
3M introduced the Breath Right® strip in Japan, and then it was rolled out in Europe, and now can be found in more than 40 countries from Australia to South America. 3M used a similar approach to that used by CNS in the US. Create awareness during the introduction phase through public relations - sports related and otherwise. "The first year we had incredible PR success" remembers Reynolds-Gooch. "We believe we got about $14 million worth of free TV, radio,...
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