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.
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.