The Spin Cycle

NEW YORK In the coming months, the major laundry detergent brands will be tackling the exact same problem: How to convince consumers that a 50 percent smaller container is a clean trade and not a dirty rip-off.

The size change, led by Unilever’s All Small & Mighty in 2005, is the result of a concentrated formula and inevitably requires educating the public on the benefits of getting, at least in terms of volume, half of what they got before. But because the smaller bottles still do the same 32 loads of laundry and are considerably more green, companies are betting that size-specific marketing efforts will not require too much heavy lifting.

Here’s how some top brands are meeting the creative challenge:

Counter-intuitive Challenge

As the first shrunken laundry detergent on the market—and so wedged on shelves between the big boys—All Small & Mighty needed to convey, quickly and clearly, that small is better. According to Chris Wollen, group account director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, that meant graphically instructive packaging, such as an image of the traditional bottle next to the concentrate and a larger, succinct load statement. The ad campaign includes TV, print, online and grassroots marketing.

Traditional ads drive home that the new bottle is light, easy to use and creates a smaller eco-footprint while delivering the same results. TV spots tackle quantity concerns by showing the amount of clothes that can be cleaned with one bottle. One 15-second spot plays off the size relationship by emphasizing that kids may be small, but they make a big mess.

Unilever also draped a stunt bus with clothes, drove it around New York and handed out samples. Anyone who spotted the bus could send a text message and enter a sweepstakes. There were also “videoscapes” projected against buildings and a demonstration of how one bottle will do 32 loads on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which had its studio audience do their laundry.

What’s in It for Me

“What you don’t want is your consumer to get to [the store] shelf and say, ‘Where’s my Tide,'” explains Chris Foster, evp, global equity director at Saatchi & Saatchi. Avoiding this, he says, means educating the consumer, which is the “pedantic part of the equation.” The other challenge is more strategic: Anticipating and answering a question the aency feels the consumer will have: What’s in it for me?

Much of the phased communication will be focused on Tide’s performance. “Small bottles are fantastic and compaction is great, but at the end of the day, it means better cleaning for her,” says Foster. “We’re looking for what’s relevant for her.”

Brand messaging will be done in various ways, with a “significant overemphasis in-store.” Components include TV, print, in-store and online.

Don’t Rock the Boat

According to Paul Vraciu, brand manager for North American laundry products at Procter & Gamble, marketing for the new bottle is being described as “an initiative” not a campaign. Elements include TV, print, in-store and online, with an emphasis at point-of-purchase.

Mitch Faigan, group account director at Leo Burnett Canada, notes that in the compaction process P&G discovered that the scent lasts even longer, allowing the agency to continue to focus on the brand’s perceived strength: its unique scent. “At the end of the day, our point of difference in market is about our scent experience,” he says.

The goal, says Heather Chambers, svp, creative director, Leo Burnett Canada, was “to keep it simple.”

Reaping the Benefits

According to Stacie Boney, evp, client service director at Energy BBDO, Chicago, Purex often relies on the fact that “it’s a heavily marketed category by the biggest spenders and literally we’re not charged with the challenge [of category education].” Nor, she says, have any final decisions been made as to whether a campaign will be done specifically around the new concentrate.

For now, Energy will do an overall campaign, in development, against the brand’s equity message of “Surprising clean, surprising value.” She adds that, given the trend toward green, it’s not very challenging “to get through to consumers” the benefits of a smaller package.

Of course, as with its competitors, Purex’s packaging plays an organic role in communicating changes to the consumer. For instance, says Greg Tipsord, svp and gm of Dial’s laundry care division, over a year ago Dial moved the number of loads on the bottle to the bottom left-hand corner and put a big yellow highlight over it, in anticipation of mirroring this on the new containers. (Both read “32 loads.”)

“As a value brand, we don’t spend a tremendous amount of money on advertising to educate consumers,” says Tipsord, “so we view our package and our in-store vehicles as our best education vehicle.”