Rival Kimberly-Clark Corp., on the other hand, is transforming its recently acquired Scott's Viva and Job Squad towels into sub-brands of its own Kleenex, hoping the brand that leads the facial tissue category can provide a much-needed boost in towels.
Bounty shortages, which P&G says are limited to certain varieties or packs, follow a gain of 2 share points in the $2 billion paper towel category.
P&G will make production improvements, eliminate coupons and cancel scheduled trade promotions until it can take retailers off allocation for Bounty, probably by June, a spokesman said.
"We will still be shipping during this allocation period about 5% more Bounty than a year ago," the spokesman said. But following volume gains of 16% in 1995 and 21% in 1994, the allocation represents a temporary crimp on the brand's growth.
P&G said it has scaled back ad expenditures by about 65% while the product is on allocation. P&G ran a half-page ad in USA Today last week, created by Burson Marsteller, Chicago, apologizing for the shortage.
The company attributes Bounty's success to a host of product and packaging improvements, including its Select-A-Size half-sheet product; a stronger, more absorbent "quilted" paper; multiroll packs; and a new color printing technology.
"The product performs, and Procter conveys that point to consumers," said William Steele, analyst with Dean Witter Reynolds.
"I think people were getting pretty tired of using three sheets of paper towels to clean up a 4-inch spill, where they could use basically one sheet of Bounty."
Consistent ad spending also has fueled sales. P&G spent $21.5 million on advertising for Bounty, handled by Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York, during the first nine months of 1995, according to Competitive Media Reporting, as compared to a total of $3.2 million for Viva and ScotTowels under Scott.
Bounty has been a success story for P&G's everyday low price strategy, with three straight years of volume and market share gains amid falling promotional spending.
LOW PROMOTION RATIO
Even before more recent cutbacks, P&G had the lowest percentage of units sold on promotion of any other competitor in the category, including private label, Mr. Steele said. P&G also maintains the highest average prices in the category, he said.
Bounty's gains have been a mirror image of the Kimberly-Clark brands' performance. The Scott brands collectively lost 3.2 share points and 10.6% in dollar sales in 1995, their third straight annual decline.
"With the merger, we're going to be re-branding some of the paper towels and reorganizing, so I think prospects are good for" 1996, a Kimberly-Clark spokeswoman said.
McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, handles ScotTowels and Viva although K-C is in the beginning stages of a worldwide agency realignment.
Paper towel market
Dollar market shares for 1995.
Marketer Share Change
Procter & Gamble 38.4% +5.5%
Kimberly-Clark* 17.7% -17.7%
James River 12.9% +6.6%
Georgia-Pacific 10.4% +6.1%
Fort Howard 5.4% +10.2%
Private label 13.2% +3.1%
Other 2.0% -16.7%
*Includes results for ScotTowels, Viva and Job Squad brands that operated under Scott Paper Co. in 1995, plus Kimberly-Clark's Hi-Dri brand. Change compares same period from the previous year.
Source: Dean Witter Reynolds