THE MARKETING 100: MAYTAG NEPTUNE: JOHN THOMAS

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When maytag corp. introduced its luxury high-efficiency Neptune washer it was posed with the challenge of convincing consumers a $1,000 machine would ultimately be a money saver.

The highly successful marketing strategy rested on an online teaser promotion, a big ad campaign and a publicity stunt with the town of Bern, Kan.-according to John Thomas, 54, director of brand management at Maytag. Mr. Thomas, a 31-year Maytag veteran, was director of advertising when the Neptune made its debut last summer.

The Neptune was different inside and out. The cabinet features a streamline look with a brand button on the front-much like a luxury car. The machine loads from the front, holds more laundry and is water- and energy-efficient.

A teaser campaign via Chicago-based Leo Burnett Co.'s Giant Step interactive agency kicked off six months before the washer was available through retailers. Maytag's Web site offered virtual demonstrations of the machine's powerful washing action.

Consumers could make a $50 deposit and reserve a Neptune. To sweeten the deal, Maytag threw in a coupon book good for $35 of Tide high-efficiency laundry detergent for front-loading washers. About 3,000 washers were reserved, says Mr. Thomas.

Leo Burnett USA put together a $20 million ad campaign featuring the dependable Maytag repairman and his encounters with extra-terrestrial "Neptunians."

According to Mr. Thomas, the washer earned its stripes last summer when Maytag gave away 200 machines to residents of Bern-a small town plagued by water shortages. Neptune's water-saving abilities were studied by Maytag and the U.S. Department of Energy over a four-month period. The study proved Neptune saved 36% on water and 56% on energy. Maytag parlayed the study into a PR campaign.

"The Neptune washer raised the bar for what it does for the consumers' benefit," says Mr. Thomas. "Stay tuned; you'll be seeing more innovative products like this from Maytag in the future."

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