P&G shifts strategy for Dryel

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Procter & Gamble Co. is tweaking its marketing strategy for Dryel home fabric-care kits amid mixed reviews, growing competition and slower-than-expected sales.

P&G in the past month has shifted more TV weight to prime time from other dayparts to better reach the brand's target demographic, working women 20 to 50. P&G also plans to more rapidly rotate the six TV ads in the Dryel campaign so consumers see more of the spots.

Dryel's first TV ad, which ran for three months, showed a woman frustrated when she arrived at a dry cleaner too late to pick up her laundry. A second ad shows a woman disappointed when she shrinks a sweater put through her washing machine. Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, is the Dryel agency.

Despite the high-profile introduction, Dryel has been hit by criticism from some reviewers and dry cleaners, who say the product's performance falls short of expectations. And retailers say sales have been slower than expected.

`IT'S DONE OK'

"We thought Dryel was going to be a really, really big item for us," said a buyer for one Midwest chain. "It has done OK, but not as well as we thought."

A negative review earlier this month in The New York Times, in which the reviewer said the product failed to get out stains dry cleaning removed easily, doesn't help.

But a spokesman for P&G countered that, "New York is different than the rest of the U.S. There are more dry cleaners. [Consumers] don't see the convenience issues and cost issues the same way as people do in other parts of the country. Most New Yorkers don't have dryers in their home, so, frankly, the [Dryel] proposition has been very different."

Officially at least, P&G has portrayed Dryel as a supplement, not a replacement, for dry cleaning. It even paid the International Fabricare Institute, a dry cleaner trade association, to run product tests.

But dry cleaners were offended by teaser ads from Burnett that appeared last August, said David Uchick, VP-communications for the institute. One ad showed a slash cutting across a "Dry clean only" label.

The International Fabricare Institute filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in August, although neither organization has made a ruling.

In a marketing counterpunch, the institute has offered its members hanger tags and ad slicks comparing Dryel's performance and convenience to professional dry cleaning. "Had a disaster with so-called home dry cleaning?" asks one ad. "If anyone can fix it, we can."

By most conventional standards, Dryel looks to be a successful new product. Rolled into stores in July 1999, the brand rang up $45.7 million in sales through Dec. 26, according to Information Resources Inc. Those numbers put the product on pace for more than $100 million in first-year sales.

AMBITIOUS GOALS

But Dryel still suffers in comparison to P&G's recent history and its ambitious goals for new brands. P&G Chairman-CEO Durk Jager has set a hurdle rate of $500 million a year in sales for new brands. Febreze fabric refresher sold $250 million its first year in the U.S. alone.

The Swiffer electrostatic dust mop is on pace to reach $200 million in global sales in its first six months.

Dryel is on track to meet P&G's expectations for first-year sales, a P&G spokesman said, although he did not provide figures.

Even at its current pace, Dryel ultimately could top the $500 million global hurdle, said Ken Harris, partner with Cannondale Associates. "Even if you create a $100 million product out of nothing, that's pretty good," Mr. Harris said.

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