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P&G Reinvents Laundry With $150 Million Tide Pods Launch

New Detergent Form Could Become Multibillion-Dollar Product Proposition

By Published on . 9

Procter & Gamble Co. is preparing to launch what it describes as its biggest laundry innovation in more than a quarter century with Tide Pods: a line of highly concentrated liquid detergent tablets, backed by a massive $150 million marketing budget.

Tide Pods will be available in September and are twice as concentrated as Liquid Tide.
Tide Pods will be available in September and are twice as concentrated as Liquid Tide.

Pods, which are similar but more complex than the single-chamber liquid-filled laundry tabs P&G sells in Europe, will be widely available in September. But P&G will begin limited "pre-seeding" sales and sampling in July to start building buzz for the product, said Alex Keith, VP-North American laundry. "We want marketing that's as innovative as the product technology," Ms. Keith said, though she declined to provide specifics.

P&G has told retailers that, ultimately, liquid-filled tabs could take a 30% share of a U.S. laundry market that industry executives said totals $6.5 billion, making them a multibillion-dollar product proposition. In the U.K., currently the most-advanced market for unit-dose laundry tablets, all forms of tablets including powder now exceed 30% of the market, according to an executive familiar with the matter.

The packaging and three-chamber product certainly are different than anything U.S. consumers have seen before. Tide Pods have an orange and blue swirl pattern from two smaller chambers on top of a larger chamber of white fluid, all housed in a clear fishbowl-style container with a flip-top lid. Ms. Keith said the product has produced the highest consumer-satisfaction scores the company has ever seen for a new laundry product.

People familiar with the matter said P&G will put $150 million in marketing support behind the launch. Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, Digitas and Starcom MediaVest Group handle advertising, digital and communications planning, and media buying, respectively, for Tide.

Tide Pods are twice as concentrated as Liquid Tide, said P&G laundry researcher Shellie Porter, and contain only 10% water, as opposed to 50% water in current Tide Ultra liquid detergent and 90% water in a value detergent such as Church & Dwight Co.'s Xtra. P&G had to take water out in part because the plastic film holding the detergent is water soluble so it dissolves in even the coldest water, she said.

While P&G has priced seemingly less advanced single-chamber Ariel Liquitabs as a substantial premium to liquid detergent in some European markets, Tide Pods will be priced in line with existing Tide liquid products on a per-use basis, Ms. Keith said. Pods will also come in the widest range of sizes ever for a new P&G laundry line, she said, ranging from packs designed for "a small cash purchase" to large, bulk-size packs.

The launch is a big risk for a U.S. market that has resisted all laundry tablets up to now, dating to the 1960s, when P&G launched Salvo tablets. Like other laundry tab brands that followed, Salvo disappeared from the market by the 1970s.

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