CAMPAIGNS: Persil reputation gets a whitewash - Consumer PR

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.

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.



Objectives



To create a positive PR environment for the Persil Tablets launch and

oversee the launch in key European markets.



Tactics



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

constituencies.



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.



Results



The business angle of the launch was well received, and met the

campaign’s objectives, with stories appearing on the ’turnaround’ of

Lever’s business.



It was covered in the UK by the Financial Times and BBC’s Working

Lunch.



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

been launched.



Verdict



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.



Client: Lever

PR team: Shandwick Welbeck

Campaign: Launch of Persil tablets

Timescale: May 1998 ongoing

Budget: Undisclosed



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