Friday, February 10, 2012

Feedback Galore! Answers/Soap Cuts

First I want to thank everyone who sent email feedback to my last post/newsletter.  Wow!  Got a lot!  So nice to have a *conversation* going with customers and hear your thoughts & questions!  This helps shape business direction more than you likely know..... 'preciate it! I do this for you, afterall!
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As requested, here is the initial cut-list of soaps:
100% Natural page: Lave Sus Manos, Ooh! Baby!, Survivor
95% Natural page:  Cowabunga, Emerald Isle, Gardenia Moon, Java Bean Scrub, Juniper Sage, La Luna, Monkey Bar, Red Clover & Rasberry Tea, Sweet Almond Oat

With some soaps like Cowabunga (vanilla), we have another vanilla soap in another incarnation Wylde Faerie Soap - Honey, Milk & Vanilla....so we see no reason to keep two vanilla-type soaps. 

There are limited quantities left of these soaps and they will currently be marked down 10%. 
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I was also a bit surprised by how many questions I rec'd...many were the same, including a couple of the following which I get over and over through the years, and will try to fully answer again here:

When are you making the Limited Edition Treasure Chest Soaps available again?

Soon!  As I'm re-organizing, some of these will be cut, new ones added!  I will announce availability again soon!   Subscribing to the newsletter, our blogs, FB, Twitter etc. are your best bets for getting info we send out!  Thanks!  And again...suggestions ALWAYS welcome!  I'm always highly inspired & receptive to your feedback.  :) 

Nut Oil Enrichment?

We did get the suggestions for more nut-oil enrichment in our soaps....macadamia nut oil, almond oil, etc.  The reason we have not used nut oils a lot thus far is, many people have nut allergies and we've received far more feedback from customers looking for nut-free soaps.  Our favorite soap enrichment is shea butter (also a nut), but seems to elicit far less allergies, as does avocado oil, hempseed oil, cocoa butter, rosehip seed oil--all of which we use in key soaps.  But we'll certainly consider some alternative enrichments for superfatting our soap!  Thanks for the suggestion!

Will you add lotions, creams, bath gels, and other matching products to your range?

I always want to give customers the answer they want to hear and say YES, we're adding ALL that!  But truth is, it's not likely.  I tend to come from the school of "Do one thing and do it well."  To add all those matching products equates for me with being able to match it with manpower.  And I do not currently want to have to add employees.  I remain a family-based business...I do most of the work, but call upon family members to help when needed. This is to help keep costs down ultimately for YOU (not have to pay employee workers comp ins. etc.)  But I never want to say "never".  Perhaps now that I'll be scaling back on soap offerings somewhat, it might make matching products more feasible.  I promise I will reassess after I make already-planned changes! 

Why are there other soap companies using your name "Simply Soap", did you franchise the business?

No, I have not franchised Simply Soap, although I've had many requests to over the years!  It's tempting, but  I guess I'm too much of a control-freak to want to mass-produce or turn any aspect of the biz over to others to represent & operate it elsewhere, out of my direct supervision.  I'm also not out to conquer the soapmaking world and try to be on every corner, like a certain coffee house chain...*wink*.  I don't have anything against companies that want to expand in a very large way, I'm just not one of them...for a myriad of reasons I won't list here.  But the bottom line (for me) being, I like the Old World ways of HAND-crafting a product and all that goes into that notion, of putting myself into each and every product that leaves my humble lil' workshop.  I think THAT is what has made Simply Soap (USA) the product it is, and the company it's been this past 18 years. 

I have trademarked the name "Simply Soap" in the USA, but not in other countries.  So any *skin soap* company in the USA using the business name "Simply Soap" is in trademark violation and subject to litigation....which I have had to pursue before, and won.  To date, I've had (last count) individuals from nine different countries who have contacted me to say they plan(ned) to use the name in their country (not sure WHY they contacted me when they already had their plan set in motion), which would be legal since I have not TM'd the name in other countries, ...but some claimed they already applied for the TM in their country, and asked if I wanted to buy the TM back from them (ownership transfer) but at what I considered to be an extortion price.  There are squatters who do this for a living apparently. (!) 

So yes....there are others legally using the name Simply Soap, or some very close derivative of the name, in their non-USA country.  Does it cause confusion?  YES, most certainly! I get confused customers emailing all the time, so I'm certain that these others using the name, or close derivative, also receive *confused customer* contacts wondering who *I* (Simply Soap TM'd in the USA) am. 

Why all the confusion???  Because whether or not an individual or company is legally using a name in their own country, the internet is still global, and most businesses hang a shingle on the 'net.  Unless someone doing a search online examines the url line for an attached country of origin of a company (uk, au, etc), all they usually see is the name of the company in their search results. 

If you want my opinion of all this, it's this: 

Any soapmaker with any intention of running an internet-based or internet-affiliated business has searched the internet already for the desired name they want to use to identify themselves with and build a reputation.  It would be pretty impossible to believe that after myself having been in business and on the internet 18 years, long before most of any of these other Simply Soap name-users have even thought of making soap or creating a business named-as-such, that they would not stumble upon inadvertently, or intentionally, when they searched for the name Simply Soap, and see that I come up on the first page of any search in Google, Bing, etc.  Truly. Or in registering their domain name.  I own simplysoap.com.  Anyone looking for simplysoap.com would see it's already in-use and then be offered derivative options (.net, .biz, etc.).  It's impossible to miss.  So I completely (on a "personal" level) reject excuses of "I didn't know anyone else was using the name *anywhere*, or in the same industry."  Um, lame. As are the excuses I get of "Why would you think that the same thing that attracted YOU to use the name, Carol...wouldn't attract others?" 

Difference is: I went to the time, trouble, professionalism, and expense to make sure that the name I chose was not already-in-use! 

While out-of-USA users of the name may technically be functioning legally according to TM law, one can't help wonder on an ethical level why they would want to attach themselves to a name already-in-use, and even move in the same industry circles online, in social networking, etc., and not expect others to view them as coat-tailing, or deliberately causing confusion for customers by using the name...unless of course, creating confusion is indeed their deliberate hope to get people to their site. (?)  How can one not wonder?  All the confused customer feedback I continually receive, proves this to me.

Some may erroneously think all this TM stuff only really applies, or it makes an impact if you are a huge company like Toyota, Proctor &  Gamble, Pepsi, et al. ...but still, wouldn't it seem weird to you to see a non-original-Toyota company using the name?  What would you THINK?  Franchise? You can never really underestimate the reach of a company, even a relatively small one like mine.  I have soap in retail shops all over the nation and in other countries...hence, why I get confused customers emailing me all the time asking, and as I'm addressing this oft-aked question now, if I'm franchised ....and therefore customers think that's why another company/website is using the Simply Soap name.  I can't help wonder how these other Simply Soap name users would feel if they chose the name and began using it first???  Would they welcome users worldwide taking their name, legal or not, and the ensuing confusion caused? Or do they welcome the confusion because it allows them to ride on another's success?

Some of these companies have not only chosen to use the Simply Soap name, but pattern their product, marketing verbage, or product line names so closely to mine, it's not difficult to see why customers WOULD be confused.  It truly is an issue I wish would *go away* (for all the 'splaining I have to continually do) .....but unless I go to the time and expense of TMing my company name in every country (there are 196 countries in our world, Folks), it will likely be an ongoing issue, and I can no doubt count on those other Simply Soap name-users enjoying the benefits of the confusion they cause, and the piggybacking they are doing, no doubt deliberately.  But I can assure you...there are plenty within the soapmaking industry and customer community who do not support it.

For my own 2 cents, I wouldn't be caught dead starting a new business using another company's name, whether in the USA or not, technically legal or not, for reasons of pride and the personal desire for individuality.  I would not want to be even remotely perceived by global customers, as copying or coat-tailing another.  If I can't gain customer-base, based on my own name/identity/quality product, I'd be back to the drawing board re-hashing my identity or product before I'd stoop to rationalizing using another's name. But that's me, my pride, personal standards & sense of ethics tend to shoot higher than some. 

Enough customers over the years have asked me about others using the Simply Soap name, that it's clear to me that it does cast other users of the name in a negative or suspicious light by default, even when "legally" used in another country.  It seems to come back to what I described above.....  The internet makes us all sort of "in the same land, in the same industry", making it less exclusionary to say "I'm doing business out of such-n-such a country so therefore I'm separate."  But now, the global reach of the internet, within industries and search engine algorithms, makes us all less separate, whether TM law acknowledges that or not.  TM law was established before the internet's inception, they just haven't changed to take any of this "global confusion factor" (when on the 'net) into consideration.  I'm sure the original thoughts of TM Law was geared toward brick & mortar storefronts only and the unlikelihood that confusion could be caused by a storefront in New Zealand vs. a storefront in San Diego.  The internet has changed all that though, hasn't it?

So it's true....people choosing to knowingly use another company's name, whether in their own country or not, will not suffer legal ramifications under current international TM  law, but likely will suffer the court of public opinion that questions them, or says nothing, but forms personal opinions at the expense of the perception of that Simply Soap name user's reputation.  Kind of karmic in a way........   But if I had to TM Simply Soap in every country to avoid this and then keep tabs on every person then violating use of the name, not sure I'd ever get any soap made!  It's enough of a time-consuming chore already, managing my USA trademark enforcement.  So I'll let the court of public opinion do it's thing.  From what I can ascertain thus far based on customer feedback, the confusion caused, backfires on other name-users...no matter how nice a product they may make or how nice a person people feel they are....there's always that lingering question of "But why do you use a name already-in-use if you're not affiliated or part of a franchise?

(There is also the inherent problem of when another Simply Soap name user makes a less than quality product and it inadvertently can get confused with the quality Simply Soap! I  have a true horror story about that I'll save for another time!!!) Not sure how it can all be worth it to these other Simply Soap name users...but I'll leave that for them to find out, perhaps the hard way.  I'm too busy working, with a name that I chose and began using in commerce 18 years ago, went to the time and expense to TM in my own country, have built *my* reputation with, and has been around far longer than any other "Simply Soap" users.

I had someone once say to me that since I combined all of my websites (SimplySoap.com, WildOaksArt.com, and Enchantasies.com) into one site (carolochs.com), that they thought I wasn't Simply Soap anymore.  I never was just Simply Soap, and I think that's clear on my main site, was always clear on any of my websites what my other business were, with links provided.  I merely combined all my businesses into one site (over a year ago), all those domains point to the same site,  for ease of shopping as customers asked for (easier to shop all at one site, one shopping cart system) than having to shop and pay separately at each site.  But yes, I am no less Simply Soap.  Simply Soap has all it's same pages within the master site of The Imaginative Arts of Carol Ochs, as well as Wild Oaks Art, & Enchantasies....my art sites.  :)

For those who like to toss around that tired old adage that "Mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery".....:::chuckle:::  After 18 years of dealing with this name confusion, trust me, it's more like a very ugly & needy monkey on your back. 

To other companies using the name Simply Soap...Why DON'T you just get your own name?  (Pretty simple really!)  You didn't exactly run the other direction from bringing the suspicion of deliberate piggybacking upon yourself.   And please don't tell me you never searched for "Simply Soap" online, or noticed it's usage already when seeking a domain name, or considered the internet implications.  But if you make a decent product you are proud of, and want to be known individually for your craft and to build a reputation......seriously, why not get your own name??? 

This answer I've provided to that repeated question I get about Did I franchise the business?  is indeed loooong....but if you read this far and it's given you pause for thought on your name use for a business, then it's worth it!  :)


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As always...thanks for all your feedback and questions!  I'm reminded what truly wonderful customers I have and how far back so many of you go with me!  Your loyalty and support are priceless gems to me!  Thank you!

Sincerely,
~Carol
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