How to take a good brand and Reckitt

Reckitt Benckiser's Bart Becht says some of its innovations are 'very stupid'. Such stains can be stubborn.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Becht, who presides over other cleaning brands such as Vanish and Air Wick, said 'ome are very stupid products, stupid ideas. But it doesn't matter'. He later claimed he had simply meant some new brand innovations were based on 'smple and obvious ideas' As a Dutchman, it has been suggested he didn't appreciate every nuance of English, despite being fluent in the language.

Which is unfortunate. Such slips of the tongue – no matter how innocent – have a history of doing untold damage to careers. Remember Gerald Ratner’s lighthearted comments about his jewellery chain’s products being ‘total crap’? That sparked a drastic demise of his family’s brand, and Ratner’s personal fall from grace. All for an offhand remark at an IOD conference.

Becht was saying that he had confidence even in the ‘stupid ideas’ of his innovations team because the group conducted extensive research to establish their likely appeal. According to Reckitt, less than 20% of its brand innovations fail. The figures do seem to back him up. More than £2bn of the company's £5.3bn revenues for 2007 came from products launched in the past three years.

Let’s hope Becht’s mistake doesn’t cause Reckitt’s reputation, and his own famously hefty bonuses, to vanish with an almighty bang.

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