P&G Provides Product Launchpad, a Buzz Network of Moms

Package-Goods Giant Lures WD-40, Discovery to 'Vocalpoint' Marketing Service

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CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) -- As WD-40 launches what may be its biggest line extension ever, the venerable old brand isn't turning first to advertising. Instead it's turning to the world's biggest advertiser: Procter & Gamble Co.

P&G's Vocalpoint is a buzz network that has 500,000 adult women members. WD-40 is the latest non-P&G product to be promoted.

The new product will be featured on P&G's Vocalpoint, a buzz-marketing program for moms modeled after its successful Tremor teen program introduced in 2001. Vocalpoint launched nationally earlier this year with a goal of rapidly growing bigger and more powerful than the teen version from which it sprang. It now has 500,000 mom members, on its way to a goal of 600,000 by the end of April. All of them are screened for their propensity to spread the word to their friends and be among the best-connected "connectors" among the nation's 60 million or so mothers. That's nearly triple the 200,000 teens in Tremor.

Though P&G has only a handful of brands relevant to teens, the vast majority of its products have moms as their prime consumers. So while 80% of the brands running programs with Tremor come from outside P&G, only about half of Vocalpoint users will be from outside the company, said Steve Knox, general manager of the unit, who reports to Global Marketing Officer James R. Stengel.

Mr. Knox declined to disclose clients, but early programs for Vocalpoint have included P&G's Crest Whitestrips and an upcoming nature show for Discovery Networks. A recent e-mail also touted ABC's TV program "What About Brian," which makes its debut April 2.

New target, new approach
Although WD-40 is now largely bought and used by men, Vocalpoint was seen as a natural as the brand is venturing into a new product aimed primarily at women -- the WD-40 No-Mess Pen -- said Paige Perdue, marketing director.

WD-40 isn't a big advertiser traditionally anyway, what with 94% of Americans already having used the product and a mind-boggling 80% of U.S. households currently having a can of the stuff in their homes. Only last year did the company name a new ad agency for the $80 million U.S. brand -- O'Leary & Associates, Newport Beach, Calif. And Ms. Perdue said the brand doesn't have any set plans for advertising the pen yet, except for the April 1 launch of its Vocalpoint program.

With that high household penetration, most WD-40 marketing focuses on finding and doing public relations around new ways to use the stuff. WD40.com lists 2,000 uses for the can. For the pen, the brand is starting slow -- with 300 -- hoping Vocalpoint moms talk about a handful with their friends. "We think it's new and interesting enough that people will actually want to talk about it," she said. Besides the obvious hinge-greasing, WD-40 also removes crayon marks from walls, heel marks from floors, and stickers from car windows.

P&G brands get right of first refusal in a category, Mr. Knox said, but brands like WD-40, which compete at least marginally with P&G's own Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, can sometimes participate.

Maintaining interest
How likely products or services are to generate buzz is one factor behind whether Vocalpoint accepts them as clients, he said, adding that maintaining the interest of panelists is part of the importance of outside marketers.

Though Vocalpoint participants sometimes get samples or other things of value, they don't get paid, which Mr. Knox said is crucial to the program maintaining credibility.

Though the Web and e-mail have been great enablers for Tremor and now Vocalpoint, they really aren't very effective for product advocacy, said Mr. Knox. Word of mouth, it seems, really works best when spoken.

So Vocalpoint has focused initially on moms with kids ages 6 and up, because moms of school-age kids have more opportunities to interact, though the program is now branching more into pre-school moms.

"As proud as we are of our Tremor work, we're seeing the efficacy and advocacy from moms dramatically even higher," Mr. Knox said. "It's natural human behavior. ... People like talking to people about things they think help them."

The Dirt on Cleaning Products

WD-40 pen: Seemingly every house has WD-40. Seemingly no one can find it when they need it, or that little red straw. But putting the world's most popular impersonal lubricant in pen form is wonderfully convenient. And it really does get crayon marks off walls. Unfortunately, then you've got WD-40 on your wall. But a nice degreasing household cleaner should do the trick. Maybe that's why P&G is helping market it.

Tide to Go: A Magic Marker-like product with a different mission. It really does work wonders, particularly getting out tomato-based stains, as depicted with the Marine recruit in Saatchi & Saatchi's "Sarge" ad. If only it could get us out of Iraq as easily. Actually, it's Spray & Wash that gets out what America gets into, and that's from an Anglo-Dutch company, Reckitt Benckiser.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser: Never before has a bit of fiberglass insulation been so handy. It removes an amazing number of intractable hard-surface stains and scum. Unfortunately, it sometimes also removes paint and finishes. Still, on balance, well worth it (though, it should be noted, private-label versions are identical).

Clorox Toilet Wand: The best of the new-generation toilet brushes overall in terms of effectiveness, ease of use, and making the filthy scrubber go away without anyone having to touch it.

Glad ForceFlex trash bags: I once watched two P&G technologists poke their hands through the bags in attempts to demonstrate their strength (the bags, not the techies). So I'm skeptical. But it's a testament to marketing partner Clorox Co.'s advertising that consumers are not. Clorox wisely used an elephant, not P&G technologists, in the ad.

Glad Press 'n Seal: Seemed like it stuck to stuff better when it was P&G's Impress brand, indicating they may have changed the adhesive at Clorox for some reason. Still, it's way more useful than ordinary plastic wrap.

Clorox Anywhere: A new super-diluted version of the bleach safe enough to use all over the house, even on stuff you eat with. Of course, so is water, and about equally effective.

Swiffer: Still the best implement ever for cleaning without much real work. Kids love it, which is part of the "not much real work" part. They can easily be duped into believing that Swiffering is a privilege.

Swiffer Carpet Flick: I'm still trying to figure out why it's easier to go get this out of the closet than to go get an upright or handheld vac. Apparently, so are other people, as this has been the weakest Swiffer extension to date.

Oxi-Clean Detergent Ball: P&G's nightmare becomes Orange Glo's new product. Softball-size detergent tablet hits stores in August and already gets huffed and puffed by Billy Mays in direct-response ads as good for 25 washes. When P&G launched the first detergent tabs in the 1970s, executives were horrified to learn that some consumers liked them because they could be reused (due to not dissolving as planned).

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