Listerine Looks to Become a Lifestyle Brand

J&J Mouthwash Finds Its Users Are Bolder, Enlists JWT To Find More

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Fashion and apparel marketers long have tried creating lifestyle brands, but not so much sellers of mouthwash -- until now. Johnson & Johnson's Listerine launches a global "Bring Out the Bold" campaign in more than 80 countries starting April 4 around the idea that people who use its products most are just more adventurous.

So a video ad in Asia shows a woman who "fears no food" tearing into crab legs, dried squid and crushed ice as terrified fish look on from an adjacent aquarium, awaiting their fate. Another shows a man who impresses women by cracking walnuts with his mouth.

WPP's J. Walter Thompson led the effort, the brand's most extensive global campaign ever, targeting the U.S., China, Brazil, India and many more in the weeks ahead. (J&J and JWT executives declined to discuss the recent lawsuit that led to the resignation of agency CEO Gustavo Martinez last month.)

The insight behind it came from what J&J calls its Spotlight process, a 16-week deep dive into a brand's core consumers, character, assets, promises and "ultimately the purpose," said Dave Crutchfield, president-global oral care and compromised skin.

It included talking with 6,000 consumers in six countries split evenly among brand users and non-users, said Ben James, executive creative director of JWT New York. Listerine users proved to "have a little more edge than non-Listerine users," he said. "Out of that we were able to create all of our work. They gave us so much territory to work with."

The research included offering both groups odder, more challenging or spicier foods. Listerine users were more likely to choose them, Mr. Crutchfield said. They were also more likely to take up a new sport at a later age, see the aurora borealis, dance or try floating in the Dead Sea.

"That doesn't mean that the Listerine made them float better," he said. "But there is a correlation there. So we joke and say why would you not use Listerine if it could make your more bold?"

Semiotic research also showed a trend toward consumers around the world "wanting to showcase their bold," he said, so it's a lifestyle attribute with some momentum.

Globally, Listerine needs some bold moves to increase mouthwash use. The brand's household penetration has been stuck at around 16%, and the category at only 25%, with variations among countries. With gingivitis and other oral diseases among the world's most common afflictions, selling more mouthwash will help, Mr. Crutchfield said.

Developed markets are stronger, as are some emerging ones such as Colombia and Thailand. "But there's still significant opportunity in markets like China and India," he said. "Even in developed markets, it's nowhere near the level of toothbrushes and toothpaste."

Credit: Johnson & Johnson

The Spotlight process aims to develop a brand purpose good for as long as 30 years, and Mr. Crutchfield believes "Bring Out the Bold" can last at least a decade. The effort spans TV, digital (which will get nearly 30% of spending), social, professional, PR and in-store, with nearly 150 pieces of content just for the first several months.

That's enough to try to reach millennials "on an hourly or daily basis," he said, "with content that talks about what bold is, in their own words and often with their own stories."

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