'Unexpected' campaign enlists celebrities to help Tupperware reach a new generation of women
Ice-T and Tupperware? Those are two entities that don't usually belong in the same sentence, much less the same room. But the actor/rapper and the housewares company have recently worked together to update the image of the brand, which has had an international presence for 60 years.
Just 10 years ago, the iconic brand was feeling a little stale. The image was just that of food storage, and it gave off, what the company hates to say, a dated, "your mother's" kind of impression.
The bulk of Tupperware's previous PR efforts focused on the design of the actual containers and on direct selling - the "Tupperware parties" so popular in previous generations, which were opportunities for women to make money independently.
"The efforts were very successful and generated tremendous media impressions, but the brand image was in need of energy and consumer momentum," says Lisa Eggerton Pearson, MD of DeVries Public Relations, Tupperware's firm since 1998.
In recent years, competitors, such as Clorox with its Glad brand, have created their own disposable storage containers available at retail outlets, unlike Tupperware.
For a company that does not advertise, the most recent PR campaign set out to change the brand image with an initiative built on the "unexpected."
So the products got a makeover, both in colors (mixed berry and sheer Caribbean blue are two choices) and variety. The Stuffables storage containers have expanding lids to make them more versatile.
"We needed a fresh approach for people who had not seen us for a while," says Morgan Hare, the company's EVP and CMO.
And in came the high-profile spokespeople, the fashion-designer partnerships, and a project to make Tupperware a brand that was seen as stylish to women three generations removed.
"Entertainment Tonight has more viewership than all the 6pm news shows," Hare adds. "Knowing that, we decided to adjust our PR to have some celebrity involvement."
Actress Lisa Rinna, 43, joined the campaign as celebrity spokeswoman, and appeared on numerous daytime talk shows discussing Tupperware and the opportunities that selling the products provides for women.
The agency chose Rinna, most recently on Dancing With the Stars, because she fit the image of a true working mom and entrepreneur. Rinna is married, has two daughters, and owns two LA-area clothing boutiques.
As a result, Tupperware parties were identified in Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal as the hot trend among the fashionable set. They became cool again, Hare says. (Fast fact: In 2006, a Tupperware party began every 2.5 seconds somewhere in the world.)
In March, Tupperware also was a sponsor of a baby shower for Law & Order: SVU actress Mariska Hargitay. That's where the rapper comes in; Ice-T, Hargitay's co-star, attended the Tupperware party.
Guests drank Tuppertinis, and the company donated $50,000 to Hargitay's foundation Joyful Heart, which helps sexual assault survivors. The party and accompanying Tupperware products received a three-page spread in Us Weekly.
Fashion designer Cynthia Rowley took the brand somewhere it had not been before: on women's bodies. She designed plastic headbands and wedge shoes made of Tupperware and showed them off on runways at New York's Fashion Week. Those items made their way into fashion magazines.
Adding to the unexpected theme, Tupperware was featured in magazines with younger demographics, like Jane and Wallpaper.
"A big brand like Tupperware, with built-in positive equity, could just continue to do what it has been doing," Pearson says. "But what has been very validating is that it's really open to moving in a different direction."
CEO Rick Goings also made himself available for press interviews, she adds.
But despite the celebrity glitz, by no means has Tupperware abandoned its positioning as a top business opportunity for women. Its salesforce of roughly 900,000 worldwide consists mainly of women, and this year the company launched a new format, "Take 5." It challenges party-goers to create easy recipes made with five or fewer ingredients.
Pearson says that DeVries learned from speaking with consultants that the party is becoming trendier.
"Partly because of the kitsch factor, but more so because the parties are interactive and fun," she says. "We were able to capitalize on this growing trend and garner press coverage on consultants and the party."
Hare says because there is no advertising, PR is essential for the company.
"PR is really how we drive our image and tell consumers about where we are today," Hare says. "Part of the reason we don't advertise is most of the time you are driving consumers to a store. Our store is our party. Its much more effective to use PR. PR allows us to get out a broader message."
At A Glance
Company: Tupperware Brands Corp.
CEO: Rick Goings
Headquarters: Orlando, FL
Revenues and latest figures: $16 million in net income on net sales of $423.7 million for 1Q06
Competitors: Williams Sonoma, Pampered Chef, Southern Living at Home, Avon, other direct sellers
Key trade titles: Cooking Light, Better Homes and Gardens, InStyle, Martha Stewart Living
PR/marketing budget: Undisclosed
Marketing and comms team:
Morgan Hare, EVP and CMO
Elinor Steele, PR director
Nora Alonso, PR manager
Marketing services agencies: DeVries PR, Spotlight Marketing