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BRANDS IN TROUBLE- IN DEMAND: SURVIVAL OF BRAND-FITTEST: BEING AN 'ICON' DOESN'T ASSURE SUCCESS-JUST ASK MR. CLEAN. BUT INNOVATIVE ADS AND ATTENTION TO MARKET CAN BE YOUR SALVATION, A LA JACK IN THE BOX.: BRAND IN TROUBLE: P&G'S MR. CLEAN GETS FRIENDLIER IN BID FOR A REBOUND

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Mr. clean is one of the world's most recognizable icons and has shown an ability to transcend borders, a necessary trait for Procter & Gamble Co. brands these days.

So why is Mr. Clean struggling in his native U.S.? At least part of the problem stems from the brand's "weight loss" in 1994, which allowed rivals such as Clorox Co., S.C. Johnson & Son and Reckitt & Colman to kick sand in Mr. Clean's face.

GOING 'ULTRA' HURT

P&G started rolling out "Ultra" versions of its Mr. Clean and Spic & Span cleaners late that year, extending concentrated products from laundry detergents -- a category the company dominates -- to household cleaners.

When competitors didn't follow suit, the smaller Mr. Clean bottles appeared relatively more expensive on grocery store shelves. As a result, P&G's market share in the $700 million floor, wall and counter cleaner categories fell from 22.5% in 1994 to 16.7% in 1996, said William Steele, analyst with Buckingham Research Group, San Francisco.

Mr. Clean dollar sales are still sliding this year, down 9% to $48.9 million for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 26, according to Information Resources Inc.

That's quite a comeuppance for a 38-year-old product whose icon, in a 1985 P&G survey, had almost twice the name recognition in the U.S. of then-Vice President George Bush.

P&G insists Mr. Clean has turned a corner, noting that its volume share is up slightly this year, although dollar share remains down due to a July 1996 price drop.

P&G launched a new ad campaign for the brand via Euro RSCG Tatham, Chicago, earlier this year. Ads featured a more contemporary, friendlier Mr. Clean, and drive home the message that the cleaner is concentrated.

Mr. Clean also recently made a guest appearance in an ad for American Honda Motor Co.'s "clean-burning" Accord LEV, which can't hurt.

VALUE OF PROMOTIONS, LICENSING

Burt Flickinger, consultant with Reach Marketing, sees room for P&G to better leverage the brand's character through in-store promotions, public relations and licensing.

"P&G used to be terrific in that area with Mr. Clean," he said. "Being a smaller part of the volume base for P&G, it's not getting the attention that the hard