Created as a line extension of its existing stain remover Shout, new odor-remover Shout Refresher is rolling out in parts of Europe, Asia and South America, often beating P&G's prospective global brand Febreze to the market.
FCB Worldwide, S.C. Johnson's agency, is handling the global account, which is being coordinated from Paris.
Michel Philippe, Johnson's Paris-based product manager, confirmed that the brand's introduction started earlier this year in Japan and is under way in markets as diverse as Argentina, Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and the U.K.
Although distribution to those countries is almost complete, advertising won't break in most places until November.
That's just the beginning.
"We're looking at other countries in which to launch the product over the coming months," said Mr. Philippe, who would not reveal them.
Asked about the U.S., Mr. Philippe replied only with "Not yet."
GLOBAL GOAL: $500 MIL
P&G launched Febreze in June 1998, logging more than $250 million in retail sales in its first year and projections of at least $500 million in global sales.
The brand rolled into Europe earlier this year. Competition there has risen a notch already.
German household-cleaning products giant Henkel just launched its own odor-removing spray, called fasa Faser deo, or fiber deodorant, in Germany. A Europewide rollout is planned.
DDB Worldwide, Duesseldorf, will handle the pan-European campaign.
Shout Refresher, the first non-stain-removing version of Shout Johnson has introduced, is available in a small travel-size spray bottle and two varieties of its larger spray bottle, marketed in both regular and extra-strength formulations.
The suggested retail price varies by market, but is around $4 for the larger size and $2 for the travel size.
In Shout Refresher's initial market, Japan, it is called Shut rather than Shout.
In that country, ads from FCB's Tokyo agency started up in June. In one 15-second TV spot, a woman tries to stuff her sofa into a washing machine after serving pungent Korean barbecue in her home. The point: Shout Refresher works on items that are difficult to clean in a conventional way.
"The Japanese consumer is very sensitive to odor issues in her home. It's a high-interest need for consumers here, and S.C. Johnson saw it as an important opportunity," said John Campbell, account director of FCB Japan, Tokyo. "They tried to get it into the market as fast as they could from the very beginning."
P&G FIRST IN JAPAN
Unfortunately, so did P&G. Its rival Febreze beat Johnson to the Japanese market by one month. Mr. Campbell attributes Shut's slightly off-target sales so far to Febreze's earlier start.
There is also a third, popular domestic brand called Kobayashi.
Johnson originally planned to introduce Shout Refresher next in the U.K., and went so far as to produce a TV spot to be aired in mid-September. But then the marketer cut its U.K. ad budget, leaving the brand to appear on supermarket shelves this month with little marketing support and no ads.
"They've given the market to Procter & Gamble," an FCB executive said sadly.
In fact, Johnson representatives on the company's U.K. consumer hot line are now describing Shout Refresher to callers as "just like Febreze."
SHOUT FIRST TO SMALL MARKETS
While P&G is clearly leading the way in key consumer markets such as the U.S., U.K. and Japan, Shout Refresher is beating Febreze to other, smaller markets, such as central and eastern Europe.
Moreover, it's also paving the way for growth of the Shout brand in many countries. In Hungary, for example, the only Shout product available on the market is a carpet stain remover.
This leaves central and eastern Europe in the unusual position of being among the first markets in the world to introduce a new international Johnson brand.
S.C. Johnson Poland is heading the regional effort, with print ads by FCB Warsaw beginning in September issues of women's magazines.
In one ad, a suit jacket flees aggressive cigarettes; another ad depicts a dog chasing a running sofa. No TV is planned.
"This is the first time we are at the forefront of a major category launch," said Caroline Penlington, account manager at FCB Budapest. "Usually, we have detailed analysis going into a launch of how it's gone in other countries, and we're able to gain from their experience with advertising, promotions and consumer reaction."