A company develops a new soap.
|Alonzo Fels-Naptha, senior product executive for Whistling Dixie Bath and Toiletries Inc., stood tall and with a confident grin at the conference table among the company’s president, vice president, and other senior executives. He held in his left hand a bar of soap. He held it just slightly above forehead level like a fan would hold a fouled-off baseball, flaunting it like a trophy, soaking in all the other fans' appreciation.
President Sudsheimer, at the other end of the table, grunted down tobacco-flavored phlegm, tapped his pipe on a clear ashtray, and, true to his reputation for succinct speech, said, “Go ahead Fels.”
Fels was swelled with the air of confidence, but managed to keep from floating.
“Gentlemen, what you see here is the product of intense research and development. And I am proud to say this soap is revolutionary, and should be--no, strike that--this soap will be a boon to our company. Our lab set out, at the direction of the promotional department of course, to make an excellent soap, a refreshing, tingling, uplifting soap that would be embraced by young and old alike. However, during testing it was found that this soap does something unexpected--it elevates the mood. One could almost say it is a, “Happy Soap.”
Sudsheimer throated more base-like emanations and shifted from right side slouch to left side.
“I will assume, Fels, that you people have not named it, Happy Soap.”
“No, sir, we have not,” Fels replied confidently, putting down the soap and picking up the ringed report that lay on the table in front of him. He continued:
“We call it, Bard Soap.”
President Sudsheimer sat up and the other executives who were elsewhere suddenly arrived with quick head turns and intent stares.
Alonzo stood ready for what he knew was coming, maintaining his puffed up demeanor and grinning like a canary had just feathered his gullet.
“Cute name, Fels, “ Sudsheimer said, “but why Bard?”
Fels put down the ringed report and pointed to the bar of soap.
“During the testing, we noticed the euphoria experienced by those using the soap, and the varied reactions. One of the very first reactions was by a distinguished gentleman who began quoting Shakespeare: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely, and more temperate! he said, and then he just stood there, towel wrapped around him, his arms stretched out wide and high like Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption. From that point on, the name was pretty much set.”
“And did all of the test subjects quote Shakespeare?” Sudsheimer asked mockingly.
“Of course not, sir. But overall, the reactions were positive; some laughed, some got peaceful looks on their face, others said they felt nostalgic. A few even cried.
“Oh?” Sudsheimer lowed, drawing it out, like he was spreading butter.
“Yes, sir, some people cry when they are happy.”
Sudsheimer grabbed his pipe and turned to the other side of the table.
“Rawlins, you’re the public relations officer, what’s your take?”
Rawlins, a young Darrin Stevens type just out of Yale University, began a long-winded spiel about demographics, with reasoning based on calculus and flowchart rigidity, hanging crepe on the edges of Fels-Naptha’s overabundant enthusiasm.
Fels felt a conflict within--that tug-of-war between joy and the knot in the stomach. Joy prevailed, yet he could not resist from chiding Rawlins, and so he blurted:
“Methinks thou doth protest too much!”
There was a collective gasp around the table with a few guffaws.
“Fels-Naptha! You too!” Sudsheimer gasped, his face turning a rosy pink.
“Tell me the truth, Fels,” Sudsheimer continued, quickly regaining his composure, “You’ve used it, haven’t you!?”
“All right, sir,” Fels admitted, “Yes, I’ve just used it as a matter of fact, just before the meeting. There is a bar in the executive washroom.”
“Well, you don’t say now!” Sudsheimer wheezed out like an old valve being stepped on.
President Sudsheimer just made a waving motion at all the executives, like his hand was a paintbrush and they were canvas, then pointed in the direction of the washroom. Everyone got the message. One by one, each executive went and washed his hands. It was a quick procession, during which time Fels and Sudsheimer eyed each other, confidence versus subtleness in this high-rise corporate world erected on the confidence and speculation of the public’s willingness to accept that which is currently for sale.
All the executives returned, a bright, shiny lot looking oddly happy and out of place in the sterile boardroom setting. Sudsheimer eyed them all with strained curiosity, his round face and double chin a pose of unkempt flesh.
Without prompting, one mostly staid executive said, “O, I could be confined to a nutshell, and think myself king of infinite space!”
It was Allenby, who was in charge of advertising.
“Well, you don’t say, Alleby!” Sudheimer harrumphed.
Sudsheimer pressed him on the details of the advertising campaign, assuming there was a go for the production of Bard Soap, and Allenby offered some ideas on product labeling. One idea was an image of Shakespeare holding a bar of soap.
After a flurry of give and take and mini conversation occurring ‘round the table like whirlwinds in blue suits, the spotlight eventually focused back on Fels-Naptha, who once again picked up the bar of soap and looked at Sudsheimer.
“Well, the decision is yours, sir, on whether or not to go ahead with production.”
And Fels stood there confidently, with a big grin.
Sudsheimer pushed back his leather chair and slowly rose.
“Excuse me, gentlemen, but I must give this soap a try myself.”
He slowly strode out and to the washroom where he washed his hands. He returned with a joyful and contented look on his round face and sat back down.
“What do you think, sir?” Fels asked.
Sudsheimer looked at Fels, then said thoughtfully:
“To sell or not to sell; that is the question.”
July 8, 2013