White Cloud bath tissue, now manufactured by Scott Paper of Canada, began moving to Wal-Mart stores nationally last month. White Cloud diapers, made by Drypers Corp., also are appearing on Wal-Mart shelves -- and they're backed by TV advertising.
P&G allowed the White Cloud trademark to lapse when it discontinued the product, said a spokeswoman. A company called Paper Partners quickly moved in to claim the trademark and has since registered it for use in a variety of U.S. paper products.
Wal-Mart signed an agreement with Paper Partners this year to license the brand exclusively.
It's ironic that Wal-Mart, a retailer known for its relentless efficiency efforts, has adopted a brand orphaned by P&G for efficiency purposes. White Cloud was perhaps the biggest sacrifice in P&G's effort to streamline product assortment under the banner of the industry's Efficient Consumer Response movement.
"P&G made a serious strategic mistake in taking a brand they spent 20 years carefully nurturing and developing and just . . . throwing it overboard," said Burt Flickinger, managing partner with Reach Marketing.
White Cloud was the leading two-ply bath tissue brand at the time it was discontinued in favor of P&G's single-ply Charmin.
Though several manufacturers have sold smaller brands, industry consultants could remember none that had seen their discontinued brands resurrected later by someone else.
A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
Following Wal-Mart's private-label detergent rollout and decision to drop P&G's Pampers diapers from Sam's Club stores, Wal-Mart's adoption of White Cloud calls into question its special relationship with P&G, said Ken Harris, partner with Cannondale Associates.
Unless "special means losing business, I don't think there's a special relationship with Wal-Mart," Mr. Harris said. "I think it's an ongoing assessment."
Mr. Flickinger said he believes P&G's global partnership with Wal-Mart remains strong, even though the retailer's move toward a more aggressive private-label program leaves P&G, which refuses to make private-label products, out of that business.
The reappearance of White Cloud also could be a warning for P&G rival Unilever as it prepares to cut 1,200 of its 1,600 brands globally to concentrate on marketing the others.
"If Unilever starts discontinuing brands like Final Touch [fabric softener] to concentrate on Snuggle," Mr. Flickinger said, "they're just ceding a meaningful part of the category to Procter on the premium brand side and to private brands