Despite being one of the UK’s favourite washing powder brands, the
last few years have not been kind to Persil. 1995 saw the withdrawal of
Persil Power - allaged to damage clothes - and by 1998, Persil’s share
of the market had fallen behind that of rival powder Ariel. So when
Lever came up with the first innovation in the washing powder market for
several years - Persil Tablets - it was the ideal chance to win
consumers back and combat speculation about the company’s ability to
successfully deliver a new product.
To create a positive PR environment for the Persil Tablets launch and
oversee the launch in key European markets.
While Persil Tablets are a consumer product, Shandwick felt it vital
that a corporate strategy be developed, including a risk management
strand, following the damage caused by Persil Power. The corporate and
consumer teams consequently worked together on the launch. PR activity
began with a programme of pre-briefing of key opinion formers such as
MPs, particularly those who have a Lever factory in their
Business journalists and consumer groups which had the potential to
influence attitudes to both the product and the company were also
involved at this stage. To generate confidence in Lever with these
groups, Shandwick briefed them with details of the research and testing
process which preceded the launch of Persil Tablets - some 100,000
interviews with consumers across Europe, for example.
This was followed by the consumer launch - the core message being that
Persil Tablets deliver a measured amount of washing powder, and that
although they may appear expensive on the shelf compared to other
products, they offer value for money.
Key targets were identified, such as ’bungers’ - washing machine-shy
young men - and busy mothers. Targeted news releases were distributed
with lifestyle photography to the national and regional media, men’s and
women’s magazine and the lifestyle press.
Shandwick also co-ordinated the roll-out of the launch in western
Europe, developing central guidelines which were distributed to the
network of agencies handling the launch across the Continent.
The business angle of the launch was well received, and met the
campaign’s objectives, with stories appearing on the ’turnaround’ of
It was covered in the UK by the Financial Times and BBC’s Working
The launch was also featured on programmes including Value for Money, on
which a home economist discussed the benefits of the product and said it
was good value for money, and Tomorrow’s World. The launch was also
covered widely in the press, from the Sun to Conde Nast Traveller, Take
a Break and FHM.
Persil’s market share has increased since the launch, and has regained
its position as the UK’s leading washing powder brand.
A new Persil Tablet product which cares for coloured fabrics has now
The launch successfully confounded speculation that Lever was unable to
handle new product launches - a fact that was reflected in Unilever’s
share price. The amount of research behind the product lent credibilty
to the launch and interest to the news story.
PR team: Shandwick Welbeck
Campaign: Launch of Persil tablets
Timescale: May 1998 ongoing