P&G left the White Cloud trademark-and the equity it had built up in it-unprotected when it dropped the line in trimming its brand portfolio. But where P&G saw no value, a canny small company, Paper Partners, saw opportunity. Snapping up the White Cloud mark, it sold Wal-Mart on reviving the name as an exclusive store brand. Now P&G stars in a case study of what's not "best practice" in managing trademarks. Brand names need to be managed-even when they are no longer in a marketer's active portfolio.
In an era of global marketing, which demands that brands cross not only borders but vast oceans, it makes sense that large marketers like P&G concentrate on brands or businesses able to profitably make that leap. The way they did business in the past is just that: in the past. And that's why, at the same time White Cloud was cut in a downsizing, P&G was upsizing its relationship with Wal-Mart Stores, the 800-lb. gorilla in U.S. retailing. Wal-Mart accounts for a growing percentage of P&G's sales-12%, 11% and 10% in 1999, 1998 and 1997, respectively.
This is all part of a retail revolution in the marketplace that P&G and Wal-Mart have helped create. But who would have guessed P&G would become one of that revolution's most-public victims. Here's Wal-Mart, dealing from the position of strength, contracting with another supplier to give it an exclusive product that not only competes with P&G but uses a brand name P&G spent decades building.
Surely it's not that great an expense for a marketer to keep ownership of its trademarks, even those that for now may have lost marketplace value. With time and marketing dollars already invested in a good brand name, the mark is still worth enough to keep safely locked up in the cupboard. Think of it as risk and reward. Although White Cloud paper products may have had no further reward for P&G, why take the risk, as P&G did, that the brand will be gobbled up by a