Saturday, September 26, 2009

Swiffer Sweeper Gives Itself a Sleek, Clean Sweep

May 2, 2009

The problem: Procter & Gamble knew its Swiffer brand couldn’t just be any dirt picker-upper on a stick. While the brand had revolutionized cleaning for many people, not everybody was a fan. Those who snubbed their noses at Swiffer generally weren’t attracted to the product because they perceived traditional cleaning methods to be far more superior. So, Swiffer needed to up its ante against that old standby: the mop and broom. This redesign—which was implemented in-house at P&G—was designed to draw more consumers to the product. “It’s about improving and delivering that more detailed and thorough clean,” said Swiffer Sweeper assistant brand manager Guerin McClure of the challenge. Current users, too, can upgrade to “that specific [level of] clean they’re looking for,” he added.

How was it created: With its crisp turquoise and neutral hues, the original Swiffer, like many late-1990s products, seemed to have been inspired by the first iMac. However, the bulky swivel head made sweeping under the furniture more of a chore than a modern convenience. This next generation sibling sports a sassy green color scheme and a new head design that's “squared off” in the corners to allow for sleek, easy dirt pick-up. Gone, too, are the thick edges, which have been replaced with new, scalloped ones that “come down to a pretty thin point,” McClure said. And oh, anyone who has come close to sacrificing a finger to the old Swiffer’s pointy cloth-grabber teeth, will be happy to learn that version 2.0 has been made more user friendly and streamlined with soft slots that grab the duster and keep it in place.

Finishing touches: Once it got a grip on the handle and the headstock, Swiffer set out to improve its dust collectors: the dry and wet cloths. After analyzing both cloths’ current textures, P&G researchers concluded that they needed better designs for both to zap dirt. Out went the dry cloth’s V-shaped ridges that the manufacturer had been using since 2006, and in came new, honeycomb, hexagon-shaped, individual dirt trappers that pick up 50 percent more dirt, dust, hair and crumbs, Guerin said. (Wowzers, so we can eat, sleep and play with our pets on the couch?)  The wet cloths, on the other hand, underwent a texture upgrade and its cleaning solution now traps 25 percent more dirt.. Swiffer has been advertising the makeover—which includes, among other things, a new, ergonomic handle and stronger, 360-degree swivel head—via television, online and brandSAVER! coupon book efforts. Kaplan Thaler Group, New York, is the lead ad agency while Starcom MediaVest Group handles media buying duties. Swiffer was also the official cleaner of Paramount Pictures’ Hotel for Dogs. According to IRI, sales of the Swiffer Sweeper have increased 1.04 percent for the 52 weeks ended March 22.

Sweeping changes:
The original Swiffer had a nice form, but it took a little time for function to follow. The bulky swivel head made it difficult to reach into corners and under furniture.

All squared away:
New, dry cloths containing honeycomb dirt trappers pick up 50 percent more pet hair, among other dust nuisances. Point is: “Why go part clean when you can go all the way clean?” McClure said of the brand’s new, improved performance.

Dust in the wind:
The old packaging didn’t show off much of the product. The new starter kits give a peek of the swivel head and relay cleaning as a fun experience. “New. Stronger Sweeper. Deeper corner cleaning,” the label says. All right, we’re sold. Goodbye, mop and broom. (Loud clang in closet.) 

Why General Mills' Retro Packaging Worked, But Tropicana's Didn't

March 11, 2009
- Barbara Lippert, Adweek

Forget about your sluggish digestive system and/or your borderline cholesterol problems. Instead, let's go back, back, back to a time when we innocently ate sugarcoated fluorescent cereals at the breakfast table and "read" the boxes even before we knew how to identify the alphabet.

They're as reassuring as footie pajamas, these retro cereal boxes that General Mills has re-created and distributed through Target. What a smart marketing move and a genius way to redefine comfort food at a tough economic time -- by providing comfort kitchen art!

Even if your parents refused to buy them, why do these faithful updates of the originals of Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, etc., conjure such powerful memories?

According to Brian Collins, of the design firm Collins, the blend of colors and figures on the original boxes were designed to play well on nascent TV sets. Paradoxically, the Trix Rabbit and Coo Coo Bird loom larger than life in our memories, because the designs were "more reductive than today," he says. "They were designed to have affinity with cartoons and be easily captured by a TV camera at a time when color was not precise."

Collins also makes the point that when it comes to the past, vintage music and TV shows are always with us, but old package design quickly fades.

In those days, the cereal-box design stood out in commercials that were cartoons that ran during cartoons, so they had, in effect, a double impact. When moms took kids to the grocery store, they could recognize the icons on the boxes from watching television, often before they could even speak.

Indeed, the re-creation of the GM packages (they're close to the originals, but by law must have contemporary food illustrations) makes clear just how insanely overdesigned cereal boxes have gotten these days. With the battle for shelf space in cereal aisles that much more desperate, brand designers have made every inch of the box pop, and the result is often ugly and chaotic -- and forgettable.

So if old equals comfort, why was the redesign of the Tropicana packaging such a disaster? Because it tampers with the reassurance of the present design (the orange with the straw) and instead evokes the generic products of the 1970s, but in a fake way, drained of all meaning, like a ghost package. Some fans of the new design suggested that it's perfect for bad economic times, since generic products seem cheaper. But I don't think people want to be reminded of gas lines, macramé and Jimmy Carter's self-named "malaise."

Regardless, General Mills has hit it out of the park this time. The design move provides continuity for a third or even fourth generation to delight in "silly Rabbit." 

'Family Night Centers' Come to Walmart

Sept 20, 2009
- Bridget Goldschmidt

Walmart is rolling out a Family Night Center in all stores this month. The area is designed to help shoppers find new ideas for at-home activities and savings on popular items in a convenient one-stop location.

The centers feature low prices and savings on popular and traditional family games, as well as DVDs, snacks and soft drinks. The mega-retailer also created a site,, where mom bloggers offer tips on how to create a fun family night plan. Additionally, the site recommends products, and healthy snack and dip ideas, among others.

“With busier schedules and kids heading back to school, now is a great time to provide a dedicated place in our stores to give Mom the savings and ideas to create fun, quality time for her family this fall,” said Laura Phillips, chief toy officer and svp of entertainment at Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart. “Our Family Night Center is designed to provide an easy way to quickly design a complete family night experience.”

Family Night Centers feature games such Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders and Yahtzee for $8; Jenga, Monopoly and Pop-O-Matic Trouble for $10; The Game of Life, Operation and Twister for $15; and Bop It!, Monopoly: Hasbro Family Game Night Championship Edition, Pictureka!, Sorry! and Sliders for $18. Also available are DVDs for $10, Including Camp Rock, Enchanted and High School Musical (1 and 2), and such refreshments as assorted 13.8- to 14.5-ounce bags of Doritos for $3 each and 2-liter Pepsi and Mountain Dew products for $1.25 each.

TGIF's Very Friendly Online Promotion

Sept 21, 2009
- Noreen O'Leary

What happens when a social media strategy takes off faster than expected?

TGI Friday's found out this month when, after just six days of media support, its new marketing character, Woody, achieved a Facebook promotional goal expected to occur over almost 30 days. The momentum swell that initially buoyed the brand online, in fact, threatened to drag it down -- until some quick thinking helped save the day.

TGIF's enviable "problem" began with the creation of Woody, developed by its new agency, Publicis, New York (which worked with sibling Digitas on the campaign). Earlier this month, to prove his self-described "No. 1 fan" status, Woody needed to acquire 500,000 friends on Facebook by Sept. 30. Each friend would receive a coupon for a free Jack Daniel's burger or chicken sandwich in return.

After a soft launch on Sept. 2 and subsequent e-mail campaign, Woody picked up 80,000 friends-even before TV and digital banners were launched Sept. 7. Sunday, Sept. 13, Woody hit the 500,000 mark. "[It was] fascinating to watch this explode," said Rob Feakins, president, CCO, Publicis, New York, of the highly successful campaign.

It was also stressful. With two weeks of paid media to go, the agency knew it had to add to the strategy. So on the 13th, after an exchange of 80 agency/client e-mails and five conference calls, it was agreed the promo would be extended.

As it turned out, that was a very good decision. That same Sunday night it became clear that Woody's friends who joined after the 500,000 level was hit were unhappy they'd missed out on the promo. The negative chatter carried over into Monday. People voiced frustration about not getting a coupon; accused Woody of working for TGIF; and complained about the use of marketing ploys in social media. On Monday, Woody offered six free chicken wings during that night's Monday Night Football at participating TGIFs. Few were appeased.

On Tuesday, Woody hinted good news was in the works. Later that day, an online video was posted extending the promo to the first 1 million sign-ups.

By late afternoon last Friday, Woody had 784,000 friends. (It's not expected he'll re-up his goal a second time.)

"It was interesting to see how quickly the page turned," said Feakins. "With social media and advertising we're at a collision point. You have zero control when things are good ... or when they go south."

Facebook has obviously become fertile ground for marketers. But with Woody, Publicis is seeking to create a more long-term bond with friends than a short-term bump in restaurant traffic and sales.

"The question is, how do we use Woody going forward?" said Feakins. "This is different from other 'free' promotions. The burger was the mechanism, but Woody allowed the introduction for TGI Friday fans to get together. Can these guys sustain each other three weeks from now? Have we garnered the loyalty of his fans?"

Given the fact Woody is positioned as a fan and not a brand spokesman, his persona has to be handled carefully, which is why he won't be making regular appearances in TV ads. A major concern was whether the Facebook community would accept an actor among them, and while there were opinionated comments about that role, Publicis said he received over 200,000 viewings of his videos and more than 100,000 wall postings. The feedback to Woody, said Feakins, was "shockingly positive."