Except for Procter & Gamble Co., tissue competitors rarely put major ad support behind brands before 1995. And in towels, only Fort James Corp.'s Brawny brand seriously contested P&G's Bounty.
What a difference a deal can make.
Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s 1995 acquisition of Scott Paper Co. suddenly brought new marketing muscle to the tissue/towel categories, as will the merging this July of Fort Howard Corp. and James River Corp. into Fort James.
P&G and smaller rivals have responded with new products and new campaigns.
Even with demand pushing the limits of its manufacturing facilities, P&G stepped up ad spending in both categories in 1996.
A new paper plant allowed P&G to roll out new products in each category earlier this year-Charmin Triple Rolls and Bounty Rinse & Reuse.
Still, P&G has retailers on allocation in both categories through mid-1998, according to a P&G spokeswoman, noting that initial volume restrictions have been eased. P&G sees two huge new paper machines in 2000 helping easebottlenecks.
P&G has curtailed trade promotions and couponing in both categories since allocation began in 1996. But it boosted Charmin ad spending almost 69% to $35.8 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting, and upped Bounty's ad support a modest 6%.
Even so, P&G's share growth has languished. Bounty's share in dollars was down 0.4 points to 37.1% for the 52 weeks ending July 27, according to Information Resources Inc. The category grew 1.3% in dollars. Charmin's dollar share declined 2.5 points to 29.3%, as the category grew 0.3% in dollars.
"To the extent any competitor lets up on marketing pressure, it creates opportunities for everyone else," says Francis Florido, VP-tissue/towel for Fort James.
He isn't sure of the extent of P&G's current rationing, but Fort James, with the No. 2 brand in both categories, is definitely trying to seize opportunities, most recently with a new campaign that broke in May for Quilted Northern bath tissue.
Northern's dollar sales are up 3.2% for the 52 weeks ended July 27, giving it share growth of 0.4 points to 13.9%, though Mr. Florido says it's too soon to judge results.
Fort James is still sorting out what to do with Fort Howard's stable of value brands, which traditionally have gotten little ad support in their commodity-like categories. A decision on marketing direction and agency assignment for the brands could come later this year.
SORTING PURCHASE OUT
For K-C, consolidating its Scott acquisition has taken time. K-C added the Kleenex name to Scott's premium Cottonelle bath tissue and Viva and Job Squad towel brands last year. Shares for the Scott brand have been flat in both categories.
Cannondale Associates partner Ken Harris blames difficulties shaping up Scott's manufacturing facilities and deciding how to market a diverse stable of brands.
"The nicest way to say it is that what Scott sold Kimberly-Clark is not what Kimberly-Clark purchased," Mr. Harris says.
Ironically, the one player in both categories that hasn't made an acquisition and faces newly strengthened competitors has fared best in recent months.
Georgia-Pacific has put product improvements, new package designs and new ad campaigns by J.W. Messner Inc., Detroit, behind its Angel Soft and regional MD bath tissue brands and Sparkle paper towels.
Sparkle got $5.2 million in ad support in 1996 and Angel Soft $4 million, compared with almost nothing for either brand a year earlier. All of G-P's major consumer brands have seen double-digit dollar growth in the 52-week period ending July 27, according to IRI.
But next year is likely to see more shake-ups in the categories, says Mr. Harris.