Product Launch: Tide turns launch into 'challenge' to conserve energy

Procter & Gamble began taking a closer look at its Tide brand two years ago, searching for ways to reinvigorate the longtime laundry-room mainstay.

Procter & Gamble began taking a closer look at its Tide brand two years ago, searching for ways to reinvigorate the longtime laundry-room mainstay.

"If we really wanted to grow Tide, we had to keep innovating, and we had to position it as the innovator in the laundry aisle," says Randall Chinchilla, external relations manager for Tide.

The result has been three new products in a 12-month span, using ideas generated from consumer research. "It's clear what our strategy is," says Chinchilla. "Keep bringing consumers to the Tide franchise with new propositions they consider appealing."

One such proposition was Tide Coldwater. Research had shown that consumers realized they could save on energy costs by using cold water instead of hot or warm, though they had concerns about the effectiveness of cold-water washing.

Strategy

P&G created an integrated campaign for Tide Coldwater. Advertising would emphasize the cleaning message, while PR focused on energy savings, Chinchilla says. The PR component would start before advertising.

"It was a great tool to build awareness and credibility," Chinchilla says of the PR effort.

In addition to driving awareness, PR also would work to drive consumer trials of the product.

Fleishman-Hillard had nine people in three offices - New York, Washington, and St. Louis - working on the effort. "It was essentially a consumer education campaign," says Claire Behar, a Fleishman senior partner in New York who headed the effort.

Fleishman suggested that Tide work with the Alliance to Save Energy, a group that promotes energy efficiency. "Credibility - when the message is coming from a serious, credible organization like the alliance - is so much more powerful," Chinchilla says.

P&G research had found that washing in cold water could save a consumer up to $63 a year in energy costs. The alliance agreed that number was legitimate, adding to the credibility of Tide Coldwater's message, Chinchilla says.

Tactics

To drive trial use, the team created the Coldwater Challenge. Consumers were invited to register on the Tide website and receive a sample of the product.

To encourage participation, the challenge used an online map that could show how many consumers were using the product. People who signed up and invited friends to do the same could see who was taking part.

Tide pledged to make donations to the National Fuel Funds Network, which aids people who can't afford to pay their utility bills. Donations were tied to how many people signed up for the challenge.

Tide held a press conference with the alliance at the US Conference of Mayors' January meeting in Washington, DC, to announce the challenge. Alliance president Kateri Callahan took part in SMTs and RMTs. Tide set a goal of having 1 million people participate.

Utility companies across the country were contacted. Colorado State University, which takes an interest in energy-saving programs, asked to take part in the challenge and was sent 5,500 samples of the new product.

Results

The campaign met Tide's goal of getting 1 million consumers to sign up for the challenge. P&G also had set a goal of 100 million media impressions; the campaign garnered 343 million, says Behar. Major media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and CNN covered the effort, says Chinchilla.

"This was definitely one of the strongest programs we've had of this size," he says. Initial sales of Tide Coldwater are exceeding company expectations, he adds.

Colorado State reported a 10% drop in hot water use during its students' month-and-a half-long trial of the product.

Future

"We're looking to sustain efforts" for Tide Coldwater, says Chinchilla. Meanwhile, P&G continues to expand the Tide brand, launching Tide to Go, a stain remover, in March.

PR team: Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati) and Fleishman-Hillard (New York)

Campaign: Take the Plunge with Tide Coldwater

Time frame: December 2004 to March 2005

Budget: $100,000

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