When Ken Hinman joined Jamison Bedding two years ago, it looked to some friends and colleagues as if he were abandoning a long, successful career in luxury consumer products to start all over again in another, less glamorous industry.
For 21 years, Hinman had led the sales and marketing efforts of global cosmetics and fragrance brands, including Elizabeth Arden, Revlon and Christian Dior. For 10 years prior to moving to Jamison, he served as vice president of global sales, marketing and design for Hartmann, a U.S. manufacturer of luxury luggage and leather goods. During all that time, he hadn’t given much thought to mattresses.
But since the shift, Hinman sees more similarities than differences among the product segments in which he has spent his career.
Not so different after all
“There are significant carryovers between retail cosmetics and luggage and the bedding industry,” he says. “Women are the primary purchasers in each and, to be successful, you have to get into the psyche of women and appeal to them.”
Other carryovers came as more of a surprise.
“Jamison, Hartmann and Elizabeth Arden are actually very similar. Each has a long history, a singular identity and a passion for quality,” Hinman says. “They are all iconic American brands. I didn’t know until I joined Jamison how strongly I’m pulled toward luxury American brands.”
Regardless of the product segment Hinman is working in, he brings with him a passion for whatever it is that he’s doing. And today, he’s passionate about mattresses.
“The most frustrating part of my job is teaching other people how to be passionate about beds,” he says. “You can’t teach passion, but you can teach selling skills and sales makes me happy.”
Helping remake a company
In fact, Hinman was hired by Jamison to apply his passion for sales to repositioning and rebranding the 129-year-old bedding company, which has headquarters in Brentwood, Tenn.
Two years ago, Frank Gorrell, Jamison president and chief executive officer, led an effort to revamp the family-owned business, which has a history as a regional leader in the consumer market and as a major player in the hospitality segment, supplying Marriott and Best Western hotels. After 12 months of self-study, market analysis, strategic planning and management changes, Gorrell turned to Hinman to implement a new plan, including a licensing deal with Spring Air.
Hinman had helped remake both Hartmann and Elizabeth Arden and looked forward to the challenge of applying his experience to a new industry.
“I’m really into brand building and have a passion for marketing,” he says.
Shifting a company’s position in the market and redefining its brand, Hinman says, requires refining what already exists by adhering to a few key principles.
“First, you have to know your brand and not ignore it or try to completely re-create it,” he says. “Then you have to recognize what drives consumer interest today. Put both of those things through the brand filter and start building.”
The effort is not without potential pitfalls.
“Branding is about consistency,” he says. “The message needs to be the same everywhere. And you can never put anything above the brand—not your own ego, not personal success, nothing.”
Settling into bedding
For all of the similarities he sees between what he has done before and his current task, Hinman recognizes he is playing in a significantly different arena.
“As a regional manufacturer, we don’t enjoy the benefits of multiple manufacturing facilities or large advertising budgets,” he says. “We don’t have the marketing voice that the big brands do.”
To counter that, Hinman will use his experience—and his own strong voice. He says: “I’m not challenged by ideas and I’m lucky to have ownership that allows me to take risks and to try something new.”
Hanging out with Liz — While at Elizabeth Arden, a global fragrance and beauty products company, Ken Hinman launched fragrances for several celebrities and design houses. Of all those, it was Elizabeth Taylor who won his heart. Accustomed to high-maintenance celebrities, Hinman was struck by the icon’s down-to-earth demeanor. Although Taylor was in poor health, the launch of her White Diamonds scent required her to make frequent public appearances. She soldiered on and, in the process, earned Hinman’s respect. “She was charming, delightful, amazing and a really smart businesswoman,” he says.
Bucket list — “I’m a driven guy. If you don’t make a list of what you want to do, you don’t enjoy the fullness of what life can be,” Hinman says. Thanks to his bucket list, Hinman and his daughter Anna are taking guitar lessons together and he has, over time, become a good pianist. Sometimes crossing items off his list requires flexibility: “I wanted to meet the Pope in Rome and I ended up in an audience of 10,000 people,” he says with a laugh, “but I did it.”
Not-so-secret talent — In college, Hinman earned spending money by singing in bars. He still sings and has a particular fondest for “singalongs of Handel’s ‘Messiah.’ ” “I’m a baritone who wants to be a tenor,” he says. “I love to sing.”
On being a dad — “My kids are the passion of my life,” Hinman says. “I love them unconditionally and I want to be their safety net. I had that and I think that I’m successful because of it. My parents allowed me to take risks and to be anything I wanted to be.”
|Title||Senior vice president of sales and marketing|
|Education||Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Mississippi in Oxford.|
|Family||Proud father of 15-year-old Anna and 13-year-old Kenneth Jr. He says he’s also the “proud parent” of Lily, a golden retriever.|