Josiah Wedgewood

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JOSIAH WEDGEWOOD September 17th, 2010 Josiah Wedgwood was an 18th century potter and entrepreneur whose company, Wedgwood & Bentley, rose to success and fame in the mid 1700’s, despite having very little start-up capital and very few connections to break into the earthenware market. How was he able to succeed as an entrepreneur, where so many others had failed? Josiah was an innovative visionary, one who always seemed to be one step ahead of the competition, one who could see the outlined horizon rather than just the hand in front of the face. His reasons for success were not only his drive and ambition, but his innovative marketing strategies such as celebrity endorsements among the aristocrats and nobles, display rooms for his wares, “inertia selling”, and brand marketing. These and his ability to manage his company’s growth, had helped lead to his juggernaut business in the pottery industry in the 18th century, one that has continued to this day. According to Koehn, “he [Josiah Wedgwood] recognized that rising incomes in eighteenth-century Britain meant that many men and women now had more money to spend on nonessential goods such as china. He also saw that large numbers of people directed their spending toward social emulation. ”(Brand New, pg. 3. ) Social emulation refers to the desire of lower classes to copy all mannerisms of the class directly above them. In recognizing this shifting consumer want (social emulation), Josiah was able to attract interest in his wares through various innovative selling, manufacturing and distribution procedures, and create a market need that only he could fill. One of his most important selling points was getting his wares to have a certain “celebrity status”, as is seen with many of today’s products, such as sports idols in Gatorade and sports apparel ads. Josiah even set the future trend for the countless celebrities nowadays, who have their own makeup and perfume line(s) named after them. One example in Koehn’s Brand New was when, “Josiah suggested calling a set of flowerpots after the Duchess of Devonshire. These and other techniques, he said, ‘complete our notoriety to the whole Island’ and help greatly in the sale of goods both useful and ornamental, by showing that’ we are employ’d in a much higher scale than other Manufacturers. ’” (Brand New, 35. ) Knowing that the middle class would want to look and feel like they belonged to the upper class of aristocrats and nobles, Josiah planned his sales strategy towards this emulation trend, so that the middle class were able to see the quality, beauty and usefulness of his wares, and feel like they were royalty. Another famous example of Wedgwoods’ products reaching “celebrity” status was when Catherine the Great of Russia commissioned Josiah to make a china set consisting of 952 pieces. Each piece was meticulously hand painted, using both old (i. e. expedited manufacturing processes) and new (i. e. hand-painted scenes on the china) industrial practices. The china set was presented in a showroom, displaying Josiah’s eye-appealing wares to London’s upper class.

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