Greg Booth protects and diversifies Zippo’s billion-dollar brand so it’s no match for the competition

Even with the challenges, Booth is excited about growing into more of a lifestyle brand, launching products in the outdoor recreational camper and patio categories. Zippo is looking to add grills and stoves to hand warmers, fire starters and lanterns in the coming months.

“We do these new product development sessions and come up with these potential products for market. We have a potential portfolio of products that could take us out five or six years, but you can’t do it all at once,” he says. “So, we do a couple here and a couple there, because it’s a handful getting them launched, and they are pricey when you build them from scratch.

“Yes, there’s lots of excitement and lots of opportunity as we’re going in a lifestyle direction,” Booth says. “But thank heavens Zippo lighters continue to sell in phenomenal volumes.”

 

Takeaways

  • Aggressively protect your brand so others don’t dilute it.
  • Stay relevant with your target audience by relating to them.
  • Research thoroughly before launching new products.

 

The Booth File:

Name: Greg Booth
Title: President and CEO
Company: Zippo Manufacturing Co.

Born: Bradford, Pa.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I was a paperboy for the Bradford Era, way back when. I was probably 13, 14 or something like that. I had to walk about a mile and a half to pick up the papers and start the route, and the route took another hour or hour and 15 minutes. I did that before I went to school.

You have to get up and go do the paper route no matter how bad you feel, or how good or bad the weather is. You have a responsibility to deliver these papers — I think at the time I had about 110 customers. You just had to get up.

What is the best business advice you ever received? One thing I was either told or learned over the years is that no matter who you work for or around — no matter what you think of the individual — if you listen and pay attention, you’re probably going to learn something from everybody. I remember in one case, I learned what not to do.

If you pay attention and are open-minded, you can learn something every day from your environment or the people you work around.

Do you have a favorite Zippo lighter? It’s a pink lighter that I carry in my pocket all the time. It’s one of our pink powder-coated lighters that has a beautiful picture of my daughter on it, who I tragically lost in a car accident five years ago.

 

Zippo trivia

  • The original Zippo windproof lighters cost $1.95. A similar lighter today retails for $15 to $16. The design has remained virtually unchanged.
  • The Bradford factory produces 50,000 lighters a day.
  • In 2012, Zippo produced its 500 millionth lighter.
  • The original 1947 Zippo Car, customized for $25,000, traveled to all 48 states in the 1950s. When Zippo looked to restore the car prior to its 50th anniversary, however, it had disappeared without a trace. Despite a PR campaign asking “Have you seen this car?” Zippo had to buy a second Chrysler, customizing it to look exactly like the original.
  • During World War II, Zippo dedicated all manufacturing to the U.S. military; this was a significant catalyst to establishing Zippo as an American icon.
  • There are approximately 4 million Zippo collectors in the U.S. and 11 collectors clubs worldwide. The highest amount paid for a Zippo lighter was $37,000 for an original 1933 model.
  • There are more than 288,000 Zippo-related videos on YouTube, and 600,000 fans on Facebook. More than 22 million people have downloaded the Zippo smartphone app.
  • The Zippo lighter has been featured in more than 1,500 movies, stage plays and television shows.