This brand is seeing its strongest growth in 15 years. It’s not surprising—every 1.7 seconds, a Tupperware party is starting somewhere in the world

While achieving record sales is one way to gauge the success of a product, nothing says “phenomenal success” quite like building a brand that makes itself an enduring part of pop culture.

Few products have had such luck as Tupperware, the food storage container brand introduced to the Philippines in the 1960s. Internationally based in Orlando, Florida, the Tupperware Brands Corporation has been on a mission to update its Stepford Wife image by expanding into hip health and beauty product lines and throwing revitalized Tupperware parties.

It’s a strategy that seems to be working. Even with the global economic recession of 2008, Tupperware has maintained its stronghold in the direct selling market. “I always say that we don’t do better during poor economic times, but we do less bad than others,” shares Rick Goings, chairman and chief executive of Tupperware Brands Corporation, during his recent visit to Manila. “In 2008, it looked like the world stood still but we had a terrific 2008, a wonderful 2009, and we just posted record profits for the company in the second quarter. In the Philippines, we’re up 16 percent in the quarter. In Indonesia, the largest Muslim population in the world, they doubled their business last year. Somebody apparently forgot to tell our management team that, ‘Hey, there’s a crisis going on.’”

The Lipstick Factor

Since its introduction to the Philippine market, the Tupperware brand has proven its solid reputation for bringing the most durable and high-quality storage products and providing Filipinas lucrative careers in direct selling. In 2006, the company aimed to reach out to more potential direct selling agents and consumers by acquiring Sara Lee Direct Selling Philippines.

There’s a phenomenon at play here, Going says, and it’s called “The Lipstick Factor,” which is largely why the beauty industry in the Philippines is thriving in spite of the global recession. “The product categories we sell here is about 20 percent Tupperware and 80 percent beauty products. Interestingly enough, when there’s an economic downturn, a woman may not be able to buy hard goods, but she would still want to take care of herself.”

In fact, according to The Beauty Barometer survey conducted by L’Oreal in its 100th year, nine out of 10 women in the United States and Europe reported no change in makeup usage despite the economic crisis. “There’s also a study called The Vanity Survey and it was conducted by culture. It revealed that over half of the countries that care more about how they look belong to Hispanic cultures,” shares Goings. “And the Philippines, being a Spanish colony, picked up that interest in beauty. So the Filipina—she cares what she looks like. That’s why we expanded from Tupperware into Sara Lee. Because she spends a lot of money on it and it makes it a better earning opportunity for her.”

Keeping The Brand Relevant

To pigeonhole Tupperware merely as a company that sells food storage containers and beauty products would be a travesty to the real DNA of the company. “It really is a couple of things that have made the company terrific,” says Goings. “We have a slogan that every successful business model works until it doesn’t. Think of the brands that you raised that aren’t here anymore, and that’s generally because management did not stay on top of it. So what we do is we try to stay relevant. First, we keep our products new and different, and we try to get 25 percent of our sales every year from new products. Second is the relevancy in the career opportunity for women. We make sure that compensation programs are good and different—she wants training, travel, and when we have a meeting, it had better be stimulating to her.”

Even in the recent World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, where Goings was a participant, it was discussed that what the world’s developing markets needed was the Tupperware Effect—“We introduce a woman to our business, microfinance her, provide her with a coach and mentor, she goes out and tastes success, she feels confidence, and when she has confidence, she has influence,” injects Goings. “I truly do believe that this is a great source of power. People look up to her—immediate family, relatives, the whole neighborhood. And we’ve seen this happen in many markets in the world—Africa, Indonesia, China, France…I think, more than anything, Tupperware has been a great catalyst not only for women’s rights but women empowerment. This isn’t just some part-time business; this changes lives.”

It is also with this mindset that Goings is making his rounds in Tupperware companies the world over. More than just the quintessential publicity trip, Goings’ recent visit to Manila was to hold a success seminar for more than 1,500 Filipina direct sellers. It was an engaging two-hour talk that featured interesting video examples and insights on achieving success in life. “I’m not an expert in success, but I’m a serious student,” he says. “We’re a multi-billion company that’s successful all over the world, and part of the quest of our company is to touch people—to show them how to wake up the sleeping giant inside.”

Published in the Business Agenda section of Manila Bulletin, August 23, 2010