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Entertainment A-List

Entertainment A-List No. 7: Kimberly-Clark

Marketer's Unlikely Plan to Sell Poise Using Webisodes Starring Whoopi Goldberg Pays Off

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Joe Kuester
Joe Kuester Credit: Illustration: Dieter Braun

"Light bladder leakage" has been around a long time, as have products to deal with it. But it was never exactly a subject of ordinary conversation or entertainment. So creating original branded content about it might seem absurd.

That is , until Kimberly-Clark Corp. and its Poise brand met Whoopi Goldberg via Mindshare Entertainment. And the rest is , well, history.

On Feb. 10, 2010, K-C released a series of "Women in History" webisodes in which Ms. Goldberg portrayed Cleopatra and Joan of Arc, among others, along with their imagined light-incontinence problems. The point of the "1 in 3 Like Me" campaign was that "LBL" is remarkably common and easily dealt with using Poise.

The speed with which the campaign spread was nothing short of amazing, said Joe Kuester, senior marketing manager of Poise, who led the effort. As digital and PR support behind the webisodes launched, consumer hot lines and email accounts were inundated with so much positive response that the brand decided to repurpose the webisodes into a 60-second ad for the Academy Awards show on ABC 17 days later.

ABC determined the subject matter was inappropriate for the Oscars, but would allow it on the pre-awards "red carpet" broadcast. Regardless, by March 6, less than four weeks after the webisodes launched, Kenan Thompson was parodying Whoopi as a Poise spokeswoman on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." It was the sort of pop-culture breakthrough brands dream of and often seek for years unsuccessfully.

"We didn't have enough money to pay for what that did for us," Mr. Kuester said. Behind the success was a combination of strategy and willingness to go with the flow of serendipity.

"We felt taking a conventional marketing approach wasn't allowing us to break through," Mr. Kuester said. He also figured a "medical professional approach" would just reinforce the false notion that LBL is akin to aged incontinence. So the brand opted for celebrity endorsement.

Mindshare found Ms. Goldberg had circulated proposals to appear in ads on female issues, though certainly not incontinence. But Mr. Kuester discovered she had broached the subject in her standup routine, and when Mindshare approached her, she agreed. Ms. Goldberg also played a big role in creative development. Mindshare had several creative concepts in mind favoring another approach, but when Ms. Goldberg saw the "Women in History" series, Mr. Kuester said she immediately deemed it the "concept I want to bring to life," and she did so largely through improv.

The business results speak for themselves, Mr. Kuester said, with Poise sales, share and profits all reaching record levels last year. Poise sales are up 7% to $181 million with share up 0.7 points to 24.6%, according to Symphony IRI data for the 52 weeks ended April 17.

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