Your Tot's New Preschool Teacher: Kimberly-Clark

Marketer Distributes Soap, Storybooks in Effort to Back Cleanteam Line

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BATAVIA, Ohio -- Some marketers -- particularly food and beverage companies -- are steering clear of marketing to children as they get pummeled by regulators and advocacy groups. But Kimberly-Clark Corp. is jumping into preschool marketing as never before -- led by Henry the Hippo.

Henry is the brand icon for a new Huggies-branded Cleanteam foaming hand soap with lights that flash for 20 seconds (the amount of time the Centers for Disease Control recommends children wash their hands). He also stars in the illustrated storybook "The Search for Mud Mountain," which Kimberly-Clark is distributing to children and parents -- some 750,000 copies -- this year through a hygiene-education program in preschools.

Henry the Hippo is the brand icon for Kimberly-Clark's Cleanteam toiletries.
Expects to reach 3.5 million moms
Henry and pals such as Billy the Bison have hogged 40% of the consumer-marketing budget for Cleanteam toiletries for tots this year as part of a program that's distributing the storybooks, along with $1 coupons, samples and other promotional materials, in 25,000 preschools. Kimberly-Clark expects the campaign to reach 3.5 million moms with children under 3 this year and plans to expand the effort in 2008.

Kimberly-Clark believes it's the first preschool program of its kind.

Certainly Robert Weissman, managing director of the advertising watchdog group Commercial Alert, has never heard of another educational program targeting preschoolers, and hopes he never will again. "It's totally inappropriate to use children as a vehicle to market to parents," he said. "There should be no marketing to pre-kindergarten children."

Kimberly-Clark executives disagree, and say the program fills a void in teaching preschoolers how to clean up after themselves.

No complaints, plenty of raves
Jeff Holecko, media manager for Kimberly-Clark's North American baby-care business, said the company has gotten no complaints and plenty of raves from parents and preschool teachers. Follow-up research from last year's inaugural program, which went to 15,000 preschools (and included somewhat different elements, including a Twister-like floor-mat game), showed 85% of parents exposed to the program would recommend the book to others -- and 90% would recommend Cleanteam products.

Among teachers, Kimberly-Clark found 94% wanted to receive more programs from Huggies, which accommodated by expanding the program to 67% more preschools and more than doubling the run of storybooks in the second year.

Kimberly-Clark has gotten requests for 1,750 additional books beyond the more than 1 million it has distributed the first two years of the program, and sees the preschool teachers, not the tots, as the primary "influencers" involved.

Monica Simms, a preschool teacher at Whitehall Preschool in Louisville, Ky., said no parents have complained about the sponsored education program, and most seemed pleased to get the books. "It coincided with other health education we were doing," Ms. Simms said. "It seemed to work really well with the kids. They understood it a lot more coming from the book than anything else."

Shift to nontraditional media
The program is an example of some of the new ways Kimberly-Clark plans to market as it looks this year to shift 25% of its marketing spending toward nontraditional media. Kimberly-Clark spent $10.1 million on measured media for Cleanteam last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. And the Cleanteam preschool program isn't entirely nontraditional, as it has incorporated a four-page pullout insert in Scholastic "Parent & Child" magazine the past two years. But it's mainly outside Kimberly-Clark's usual media mix.

"Media is in this wonderful time right now where we can be entrepreneurial," Mr. Holecko said. He said WPP Group's MindShare, New York, was the key agency involved in creating the program. "It's a phenomenal success story inside K-C that's showing [nontraditional media can] pay off."

Data from Information Resources Inc. for the 52 weeks ended April 22 show Huggies Cleanteam was the fastest-growing line in the toddler toiletries categories of shampoo, soap and washcloths with total sales of $13.6 million.

That's still behind P&G's Pampers Kandoo lineup, which had sales of $22.8 million after launching in 2004, about a year ahead of Cleanteam. Category leader Johnson & Johnson's eponymous brand, which launched decades ago, logged sales of $29.5 million in the shampoo and soap categories, but both newcomers have been chipping away at its share. Overall, Johnson's baby products had sales of $112.3 million, including categories such as lotions and oils.

Cleanteam gained share in all of its product segments last year, but grew fastest -- 2 and 2.6 points respectively -- in soap and shampoo, the categories most closely linked to the preschool hygiene program, compared with 1.7 points in lotion, according to a presentation by Srabani Rake, Kimberly-Clark baby-care market-research manager, at the Nielsen 360 conference earlier this month in Hollywood, Fla.
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