It was, in many ways, a routine piece of work for one of the consultancies to which big businesses regularly turn for advice on how to boost their profits in increasingly complex markets.

The slickly packaged Evolve 2 Excellence (E2E) plan to “turbocharge” a product’s sales involved targeting its most prolific distributors, honing its messaging to boost brand loyalty, and circumventing restrictive retailers by offering mail-order deliveries to its keenest users...

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