In 2007, Candace S. Matthews, president of Soft-Sheen Carson, a division of L’OREAL USA, received a phone call that shocked her. The recruiter was trying to lure her away from her consumer products marketing job in New York City to work at Amway in Ada, Michigan.
“Amway?” Matthews asked. “You still exist?”
Her skepticism turned to intrigue when she learned Amway was a global giant in nutritional products, cosmetics and water purification. In the past three years, Matthews, chief marketing officer at Amway, has created a unified global brand for the family-owned, direct selling leader.
Just off a whirlwind around-the-world business trip, Matthews, BS/CIT’81, came to Pittsburgh in February to share her marketing insights with students at the Tepper School of Business as part of the W.L. Mellon Speaker Series.
“We have the largest brand of nutrition products in the world -- Nutrilite -- and yet nobody knew about it,” said Matthews. “It was almost an embarrassment of riches.”
Matthews helped reinvigorate the image of a company that was once an American icon. Thirty years ago, 90 percent of its sales were in the United States, while today 90 percent are outside the United States in more than 80 countries. The brand was fragmented and even the name was inconsistent- called Quixtar in the United States but Amway in other countries. Matthews and her team transitioned the company to a unified global brand.
“We took back our name, from Quixtar to Amway Global to just Amway, ” said Matthews.
She began creating brand equity with a uniform look for marketing materials and aired commercials letting consumers know Amway was no longer their mother’s soap company but had 450 products and $9.2 billion in sales. The opening of the Amway Center sports and entertainment complex in Orlando, Florida, home to the Orlando Magic, also raised its profile.
Creating a global brand for Amway is just the latest achievement of a woman whose resume includes stints at Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Coca-Cola Corp. and L’OREAL. She credits her undergraduate education at Carnegie Mellon University for giving her a strong analytical start.
“I love this campus,” she said. “It made me and started my career.”
The youngest of 18 children who grew up in steel country in New Brighton, Pa., Matthews came to Carnegie Mellon University in the late 1970s to study metallurgical engineering. Then the steel industry collapsed. The engineering student decided to take a few marketing courses at the Graduate School of Industrial Administration and she found a new path.
“It was a great way to combine the analytical skills in engineering with the fact that I really loved people and had strong interpersonal skills,” she said. “In order to become a great business person, you really do have to understand the numbers, whether you like it or not. Sometimes marketers like to be off doing the creative things, but you still have to have a strong foundation for business.”
A global businessperson also has to understand the nuances of different cultures, she added. “I hop from one country to the next. Being an entrepreneur resonates in every culture.”
The mother of three said the family-owned Amway is also family-friendly. “They want to make sure you are happy first as a person because you will deliver so much more.”
The working mother travels around the world continually because her husband Bruce stays home with the children. Her advice to working mothers: “You have to have balance in your life. You can’t do it alone. That requires a support system, whether it is a spouse or partner. Don’t be afraid to do things that are not always conventional. In my case, my husband Bruce is a full-time stay at home Dad. That is how we balance the fact that I am traveling around the globe all the time, but the kids are home with him. Their lives are solid. The kids are wonderful, happy and thriving.”
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