P&G Takes Laundry Brands In New Directions

Dry Cleaning, Youth-Oriented Products and Tim Gunn Figure in Latest Initiatives

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Procter & Gamble Co.'s Tide is branching into dry cleaning, fashion and more as it looks to innovate in new areas amid an economic downturn and changing consumer demands regarding laundry.
P&G has enlisted Tim Gunn in an online campaign to offer laundry and fashion commentary at DresstotheSevens.com.
P&G has enlisted Tim Gunn in an online campaign to offer laundry and fashion commentary at DresstotheSevens.com. Credit: Bravo

Tide has launched a three-store test of a dry cleaner under its brand name in Kansas City, Mo. The test includes construction of a new company-owned store and partnership in two other stores with a local dry cleaner, GreenEarth Cleaning, which uses a dry-cleaning solvent it says is environmentally safer than traditional chemicals.

Why wash when you can Swash?
Meanwhile, P&G is also launching a full-scale test of its Swash youth-focused sub-brand in Lexington, Ky., following a limited test in a Swash-branded Columbus, Ohio, store last year. Swash, a lineup of products to freshen up, de-wrinkle and remove stains from clothes without actually washing them, is rolling into several Lexington stores, including Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Walgreens, Family Dollar and Bed Bath & Beyond. Since the Columbus store closed last year, Swash products have been available only online at SwashItOut.com.

Both test launches come as P&G undertakes a $60 million fashion-oriented launch behind Tide Total Care and its Downy Total Care sibling as the sort of ultimate solution for all laundry problems, promising to address the "seven signs of beautiful clothes," including preserving color and shape in addition to fighting and preventing stains.

To back that launch, P&G has enlisted Tim Gunn of Bravo's "Project Runway" and "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style" in an online campaign that began last month when products began hitting stores, as well as tie-in with Ann Taylor's Loft stores in September that includes samples. Mr. Gunn offers his laundry and fashion commentary for Tide at DresstotheSevens.com.

The Kansas City dry-cleaning test is the latest in several decades of efforts by P&G to tap the $9 billion market, something of a holy grail for the company, but one it still believes it can find.

Unenthused about dry cleaning
"Through our research, we learned consumers really aren't happy about their current dry-cleaning options," said Kash Shaikh, a spokesman for P&G. "Only 43% of people are satisfied with the results their current dry cleaners give them."

Be it through dry cleaners or at home, however, he said consumers are interested in extending the life of their clothes, particularly as the economy worsens.

But Tide dry cleaning also will encompass enhanced services, including a drive-through, valet and concierge services, an on-site tailor, a proprietary process to improve garment color and "a significant reward program that provides members with different offers and discounts."

The company's late-1990s launch of Dryel home dry-cleaning kits (one component of which is part of the Swash lineup) disappointed, and P&G in 2006 licensed the product to orphan-brand marketer Changing Paradigms, also based in Cincinnati.

P&G also tested a dry cleaning and home-delivery valet laundry service called Juvian in 2001 in Atlanta, billed as a "laundry spa," but never moved forward with a national launch.

Mr. Clean sighted at car wash
Franchising is one possibility for the laundry service, which will include a state-of-the-art flagship store in the Kansas City suburb of Leewood, Kan. P&G is similarly testing three Mr. Clean-branded car washes in the Cincinnati area, including a valet drop-off carwash at a downtown parking garage, that could also be expanded nationally as a franchise.

"We learned a lot from Mr. Clean," Mr. Shaikh said. "It's an initiative that's meeting its objectives and we're going to try to learn as much as we can from." While acknowledging that past efforts to tap the dry-cleaning market hadn't gained traction, he said, "This is the first time we've put the Tide name on any kind of dry-cleaning idea, which is huge."

Dry cleaning generally lacks distinguishable brands, and people have learned to settle on dry cleaners close to home despite their dissatisfaction because of their feeling that "all dry cleaners are the same," Mr. Shaikh said.

P&G found 80% of people do their dry cleaning within four miles of their homes rather than shopping broadly for the best option in town. The marketing in Kansas City will rely heavily on direct-mail and out-of-home in hopes of creating a plan that can be scaled nationally, he said.

Time for innovation
"As we move into a tough economic time," he said, "this is the time for our innovation and marketing and value to be running even stronger."

Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi and WPP Group's Grey Worldwide, both New York, are leading the Total Care effort. The Creative Department, a Cincinnati independent, is handling the Tide dry-cleaning test, while Publicis-backed Burrell is leading the effort for Swash in Lexington, Mr. Shaikh said.
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