LEADING NATIONAL ADVERTISERS: P&G WRESTS AWAY LEAD IN FEMININE HYGIENE: 'LISTENING TO CONSUMER,' NEW ITEMS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE

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History-specifically the disastrous end of the Rely tampon brand amid the toxic shock syndrome outbreak of the 1980s-hasn't been kind to Procter & Gamble Co. in the category of feminine protection.

But that's the past. The present is something else. P&G has gone from trailing arch-rival Kimberly-Clark Corp. by 7 share points in feminine napkins in 1992 to leading by 4.8 points, the latter pulled by Information Resources Inc. for the 52 weeks ended July 27.

Add to P&G the Tampax line, dominant in the tampon category, and K-C faces the prospect of becoming a distant No. 2 in feminine protection. P&G added Tampax earlier this year when it bought Tambrands.

Tampax holds 49% of the U.S. tampon market, valued at $647.4 million, about 60% of the value of the feminine napkins market, according to IRI. Marketing of Tampax is largely confined to the U.S., although P&G is seeking to move the product into Latin America, Asia and Europe.

P&G NEW PRODUCTS

P&G has done to K-C in feminine protection what K-C did to P&G in diapers: Overcome a category leader through a barrage of well-accepted new products.

In the last two years, Always has introduced five new or improved products, most recently in June with Always Overnight Maxi with Wings and Ultra Thin Overnight Maxi with Wings.

Fortunately for K-C, the feminine protection business is only half the size of diapers.

Presiding over the strategy behind Always' advance-and now Tampax-is Nancy K. Swanson, VP-managing director, worldwide strategic planning.

Ms. Swanson says the recent success of Always stems from "the power of listening to the consumer," along with new products that meet consumer needs, "cutting-edge advertising" and keeping stock-keeping units under control.

With success has come an increase in ad support. P&G increased measured ad spending on Always to $51.5 million in 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting, up from $28.9 million in 1995.

Though P&G is looking to trim $100 million in costs annually out of Tampax, advertising won't be taking a hit. Chairman-CEO John Pepper has vowed to boost ad spending and keep spending consistent year to year. P&G recently assigned the account to Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, but when Burnett will be creating ads for Tampax is unclear.

TAMPAX ADS CONTINUE

A campaign for Tampax by Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, the incumbent agency for former owner Tambrands, remains on the air after breaking earlier this year. FCB was knocked out of the running with P&G because it handles K-C's flagship Kleenex brand. Advertising direction for Tampax remains under review, according to a P&G spokesman.

Regardless of the ad decisions, the Tampax deal only makes it harder for K-C and Johnson & Johnson, No. 3 in the category, to overtake P&G in feminine protection, says Ken Harris, partner at Cannondale Associates.

"There is a redoubled effort [at K-C] to shore up that business, particularly after Procter purchased Tambrands," Mr. Harris says. "But it's going to be

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