Package ploy not fair play

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Four of the five top-ranked dishwasher soaps in Consumer Reports' test this month were versions of Procter & Gamble Co.'s Cascade. The magazine was so impressed by the improved performance of detergents from P&G and Reckitt Benckiser (maker of No. 1 ranked Electrasol) that it had to adjust how it rates dishwashers. That's package goods companies at their best. P&G's reformulation of handwashing dish soap is the opposite-a sorry example of trying to put one over on consumers while putting a brand name at risk.

P&G isn't increasing the price on "New fast acting formula" Dawn, Ivory and Joy handwashing dish detergents. A P&G spokeswoman says the new versions deliver "superior cleaning." But the new soap comes in a smaller bottle made taller so it looks bigger. The soap's thinner so it flows faster. And it has a spout that makes the stuff pour faster so the consumer likely will use more. It adds up to an effective 12% price hike.

P&G needs to boost sales and profits. This isn't the way.

It's an old trick for package goods companies to shrink the size and hope consumers won't complain. We've seen it in everything from candy bars to tuna cans. P&G's watered-down scheme is a blatant example and it's disrespectful of consumers. We wonder how Dawn customers would (will) feel if they learned how P&G was manipulating them. That's a good way to turn a customer relationship bad.

P&G's work on Cascade shows it knows how to develop a superior product that it can proudly market as new and improved, and that can command a premium price. P&G should lead in product innovation, as it has in many areas. It should not be a leader in consumer manipulation.

Try to ignore the sexism and consider the meaning in David Ogilvy's classic line: "The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Don't insult her intelligence."

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