Monday, September 6, 2010

Team Tide

By Elaine Wong on Mon Sep 14 2009

Kash Shaikh remembers the moment he and a group of colleagues presented Robert Luzzi, the chief marketing officer of Ann Taylor Stores, with what they hoped was fashion in a bottle—except, of course, it wasn't. Or not quite.
Luzzi looked at the orange bottle and said, "Guys, what you've got there is still laundry," recalls Shaikh, who oversees influencer marketing for Procter & Gamble's Tide. That bottle, Tide Total Care, was the detergent brand's first foray into the world of washable fashion.
The idea was that in a recession more consumers might consider cutting dry cleaning out of their budgets. Total Care, which promised to maintain the "look and feel" of garments 30 wash cycles later, was meant to provide a way to keep clothes looking newer longer. Brands like Reckitt Benckiser's Woolite have long made similar claims, but Total Care's introduction was presented with a fashion twist, which was why it was important to get clothiers like Ann Taylor on board.

"We looked like laundry guys trying to talk fashion," Shaikh recalls of Luzzi's sharp, yet constructive input on the project's progress at that point. Visually and aesthetically, Total Care needed to kick it up a notch.

The result was a campaign, by Saatchi & Saatchi, Digitas, DeVries and Starcom MediaVest Group, which had the brand dropping fashion lingo. Print and TV ads alerted trendsetters to the "7 Signs of Beautiful Clothes," a tagline reminiscent of Olay Total Effects' "Fight 7 Signs of Aging." Fashionable laundry detergent, the ads asserted, "maintains [clothing's] finish," "enhances softness," "prevents pills" and "cleans thoroughly." In doing so, Total Care reversed the previously accepted notion of clothing eventually fading and wearing out over time.

"Women were telling us they wanted to look their best every day, no matter what they're wearing," says John McFarland, the Tide assistant brand manager who helped launch the product.

The move from laundry to fashion wasn't as big a jump as one might think. In watching consumers use Total Care, many of them talked about how it maintained their clothes in the same way that shampoo and conditioner nurtured one's hair, says Kevin Crociata, the North American laundry care marketing director who helped oversee the launch.

"People love our stain cleaning benefits, but sometimes they may be perceived as being too harsh on clothes," he says, adding that Total Care opened an "untapped vector in the category."

To build credibility, Team Tide solicited the help of Tim Gunn—the style guru from the hit show Project Runway—along with stylists like Jorge Ramon to promote the product. Retail partnerships with Ann Taylor Loft (yes, Luzzi finally came around) and The Limited stores further cemented Total Care's fashion foothold. Both involved in-store signage, couponing and product sampling. In both instances, Tide lent its cleaning credentials while the retailers' visibility convinced consumers that fashionable apparel and washer-friendly clothing can go hand in hand.

And, in yet another first for Tide, the marketing team behind Total Care also tapped the help of outside industry professionals, including high-end department store buyers, textile experts and fashion designers. Brands like Olay and Pantene have long "brought the outside in," but it wasn't until Total Care tried the approach itself that it discovered "the actionable and knowledgeable feedback we were able to incorporate," Shaikh says.

As a result, Total Care made a very fashionable showing. For the 52 weeks ended June 14, it posted $72 million in sales (excluding Walmart) per IRI. P&G maintains that the product is on pace to deliver $120 million to $150 million in first-year sales overall. Such results came at a time when many packaged-goods companies—P&G included—were suffering significant share losses from consumers' recessionary cutbacks. Yet, Total Care was able to "combine both the attraction of high-end fashion and the fact that it saved users money," says Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Ali Dibadj.

Another measure of Total Care's clean sweep: In March, Woolite introduced its own fashion positioning in an online campaign and makeover contest called "find the look, keep the look," backed by style pundit Stacy London.

But Shaikh recalls the moment he knew that Total Care had scored big with the fashion world. At the product's launch party, Luzzi told P&G, "You guys did it."

Three of its guys, to be specific. "Suddenly," Shaikh remembers, "it didn't feel like [just] detergent anymore."