Procter & Gamble tried to kill it.
Nearly a quarter century later, Walmart deemphasized it as a private brand.
But White Cloud refuses to die.
In fact, the toilet tissue is rebounding as a national brand at Walgreens and a handful of supermarket chains, as well as at Walmart and its online affiliates, and on Amazon. That's due to Kruger Products, the Canadian manufacturer that now owns the brand for tissue categories, relaunching White Cloud this year with new packaging, and a marketing campaign built around a recent on-air promotional tie-in on "Live With Kelly and Ryan," arranged by Empower MediaMarketing in Cincinnati.
It's just the latest turn in one of the twistiest tales in packaged-goods history. The story of how White Cloud went from a Procter & Gamble national brand to private label and was then reborn again is one of entrepreneurship, luck and persistence trumping corporate efficiency.
Rescuing the brand
White Cloud isn't now and never has been close to being a
category leader. It had a roughly 5 percent share of the
then-roughly $4 billion toilet paper category when P&G flushed
it in 1993, according to The New York Times. Nearly a quarter
century later, as it emerges from being a Walmart-only brand, White
Cloud has approximately a 2 percent share of the U.S. toilet paper
business, according to Kruger.
With all-in toilet paper sales of around $10 billion (rounded up from Nielsen's $8.4 billion figure to account for unmeasured club and offline sales), White Cloud sees about the same $200 million in consumer sales it had when P&G discontinued it.
But there's more to White Cloud today. It's a brand name in categories such as paper towels at Walgreens and some supermarkets, as well as cotton balls, cotton swabs, diapers and baby wipes at Walmart and online.
The man who rescued the brand from the dustbin of packaged-goods history and still owns trademark rights for most categories outside tissue products is Tony Gelbart—CEO of Boca Raton, Florida-based White Cloud Marketing and former CEO of oral-care marketer Carewell Industries. He is now also working on plans to expand into even more categories.
The life cycle of a zombie brand
The brand name goes back to 1913, according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records. P&G acquired it in 1958 as part of its acquisition of the Charmin Paper Co. But White Cloud was always second fiddle to Charmin, despite getting vigorous challenger-brand marketing in P&G's former every-brand-for-itself model, including $7.7 million in measured media support its final year under P&G, according to Kantar Media Intelligence.
White Cloud ads in the 1980s showed women earnestly proclaiming
that their husbands didn't care about toilet paper, only to be
confronted by hubby's secretly taped testimony to the contrary
(in ads from Leo Burnett). Later, animated clouds were shown manufacturing White Cloud in the sky as side-by-side demos showed White Cloud's superior softness and thickness compared with a "leading brand," which was P&G sibling Charmin. Another shows an earnest animated cloud conducting market research in Miami asking a woman whether she buys White Cloud because it's softer or thicker.