The perfume buyer at Galeries Lafayette, Paris’s most prestigious department store, was disdainful of Estee Lauder–this upstart American woman with the made-up French-sounding first name. He refused even to meet with her. After trying fruitlessly for several days to obtain an appointment, Lauder took matters into her own hands. She walked into the perfume section of Galeries Lafayette, uncapped a bottle of Youth Dew (her company’s most successful perfume), turned it over, and emptied it onto the carpet. Harvard Business School professor Nancy Koehn reported what happened next in her book, Brand New:
“Over two days, shoppers repeatedly asked Galeries Lafayette saleswomen where they could purchase the scent. Some of these conversations took place in the presence of the store’s cosmetics buyer, who was impressed with women’s enthusiasm for Youth Dew. Within a few weeks, Estée Lauder opened her first counter in Galeries Lafayette.”
Sometimes innovation doesn’t happen in the R&D lab. It happens right on the sales floor.