How We Brought the Generous Nature of Gaia Group to Life
To help women around the world better feed their families
To launch a new company into an oversaturated market
Gaia Group was the brainchild of a group of investors which wanted to launch a new dinnerware brand in the United States with the ambitious aim of achieving distribution with large national retailers within two years. The potential new company was faced with several significant obstacles:
- The dinnerware market was highly-saturated. There were already over 800 dinnerware companies worldwide, with two (Gibson and Pfaltzgraff) owning 80% of the market. As a result, the competition for retail shelf space was fierce and was most often awarded to manufacturers with whom retailers had long standing relationships.
- Differentiation between dinnerware brands was largely cosmetic. With some exceptions (such as Corelle, which was hard to break), dinnerware brands had few distinctions. Fashion, such as color or shape, tended to determine what was most popular.
- There was no real innovation within the industry… for over 10,000 years. Dinnerware has been manufactured in the same way for millennia. As one company executive noted sardonically “Unfortunately, a dish is a dish is a dish.”
Despite the daunting odds, Stuart McFaul was compelled by the challenge, realizing that a well-strategized sales and marketing program would spell the difference between success and failure.
The investors asked Stuart to build the company team from the ground up. He recruited the former head of housewares for Sears as company president, then chartered her to build the sales team. As VP, Stuart led branding and marketing efforts, guiding the team on launch events and subsequent marketing campaigns, including PR, social media, communications, and advertising.
Inspired by the company’s name Gaia and the symbolic Earth Goddess who provided “the best of the earth,” Stuart concentrated the brand identity on the concept of women working together to create a better world. This was a pragmatic decision based on the fact that over 90% of people who purchased dinnerware – from retail buyers to individual consumers – were women. He knew that the opportunity for women to help women build successful businesses and lives would be a uniquely powerful message.
“Giving back to the world” became a central theme for the company, supported by programs that highlighted Gaia’s women-owned, women-led team, philanthropic efforts that helped women better feed their families in developing nations, environmentally-safe manufacturing practices and a commitment to performing social good.
Within six months, the brand direction and messaging, plus several hundred new products were introduced at the annual Housewares Show in Chicago. Gaia Group’s launch at the show was so successful the company received RFPs from every major retailer, an exceptional feat within the housewares industry. In addition, Gaia’s industry-leading design strategies made it the most highly-represented company in the industry in the Pantone Colorwatch Competition, a prestigious event that highlights trending colors for the coming year.
Within their first year, Gaia partnered with Walmart to become a supplier. This was a rare event since Walmart accepts less than 2% of applicants and even more unique since Gaia was a new company. To reinforce the partnership, Stuart developed a Walmart-specific branding strategy that was so successful that Walmart tried to buy the Gaia Group brand.
Over the next two years, Stuart doubled down on the women-first strategy by focusing on women as the innovation leaders in the housewares industry. He launched the industry’s first-ever innovation lab: Gaia Innovation and Research Lab (GIRL) to research and develop groundbreaking solutions for every aspect of the dinnerware industry, from product design, development, and manufacturing to distribution and marketing. From partnerships with 3D printers and augmented reality companies to Dinnovation, Gaia’s student design competition, Gaia’s innovation strategy focused on how women could revolutionize the housewares industry.
Stuart’s efforts resulted in GIRL being recognized by the International Housewares Association as one of the industry’s most innovative efforts, leading Homeworld Business, the industry’s top business publication, to make Gaia the cover story in their annual Nouveau issue.
Apart from industry recognition and honors, Gaia revenues grew explosively:
- In total, Gaia Group media coverage has reached over 228M impressions with features in all major tableware industry publications, along with leading consumer publications such as Better Homes and Gardens and HGTV, generating millions of dollars in ROI.
- The digital marketing campaigns also increased online sales by 2230% year over year.
- Within two years of launch, the company had met investor goals and was purchased by a key competitor.