The Case Centre’s top 40 bestselling cases

Thirty-first place - Colgate-Palmolive: Cleopatra
The case
Case: Colgate-Palmolive: Cleopatra Colgate-Palmolive: Cleopatra
Authors: Sandra Vandermerwe and J Carter Powis
Institution: IMD
Ref: IMD-5-0373
Date published: 1990

The Canadian launch of Colgate-Palmolive’s Cleopatra soap in February 1986 was an extravaganza with cocktails served by hostesses dressed as the Egyptian queen. The soap was already a star performer in France, so what could go wrong? Towards the end of the year, sales had reached just $755,000 compared to an expected $3,775,000. The brand had flopped and retailers were pulling it from the shelves. Could it be the curse of the pharaohs? Or more prosaic reasons, such as a poor marketing strategy or over-reliance on advertising?

Group Product Manager, Steve Boyd, felt Cleopatra might still have a chance in Canada. Could he find a way to solve the riddle of the brands and make it work?

The authors

Sandra Vandermerwe is an Extraordinary Professor at Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), University of Pretoria, South Africa; an Associate Fellow at Imperial College Business School; and an Adjunct Professor at the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT), Germany.

Carter Powis is based in Toronto, Canada where he is a Partner with Spencer Stuart, one of the world’s leading executive search consulting firms. Founded in 1956 and privately owned, its consultants are advisers of choice among organisations seeking guidance and counsel on senior leadership needs.  Carter is a member of the firm’s global consumer, retail, and professional services practices.

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