Flourishing Viva Paper-Towel Brand Beefs Up Its Marketing

K-C Property Is Now No. 2 in Category; Stitches Samples in June Issues of Reader's Digest

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Viva may be a girl, brand-personality-wise, but she's beating up the Brawny Man. That's gotten her noticed by higher-ups at Kimberly-Clark Corp., who are giving the long-neglected premium paper-towel brand new marketing muscle.

According to K-C research, consumers view Viva as having a feminine brand personality.

How to tell if your towel's a boy or girl

K-C is boosting support for Viva in a new campaign from Anthem Worldwide, Chicago, that includes a patent-pending program for stitching paper-towel samples into about 10% of the press runs of June issues of Reader's Digest and Every Day With Rachael Ray. It's part of a four- to six-page spread in each book (depending on whether you count a paper towel as a page).

No. 2 in category
According to K-C's research, consumers view Viva as having a feminine brand personality, and that sets it apart both from Koch Industries' Brawny and Procter & Gamble Co.'s category leader, Bounty, said Dave Wears, the brand's marketing director. That, he said, is among other factors such as softness and efficacy that have helped move it from No. 4 to No. 2 in the paper-towel category, which totaled $2.3 billion in the past year in retail outlets excluding Wal-Mart Stores, club stores and dollar stores.

Viva's success came despite a limited marketing effort focused on in-store marketing and $5.4 million in media support, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Nothing will soon move Viva within striking range of category dominator Bounty, which added 0.9 points to its already prohibitive lead to reach 42.5% of the category for the 52 weeks ended May 20, according to Information Resources Inc.

Scott brand struggles
Indeed, the success of Bounty's budget-priced Basic line, which accounted for all the brand's growth in IRI data, has hit Viva's sibling Scott brand hard, pushing K-C overall into negative share territory the past year despite the success of Viva. With measured media of $63.2 million last year, according to TNS, Bounty outspent all competitors combined more than five to one.

But in a business where having the No. 1 or No. 2 brand is an important bragging right, K-C is hoping its new ad effort cements its hold on No. 2. Mr. Wears said K-C leapfrogged both Brawny and Sparkle in the past year to hit No. 2, based on a first-quarter share of 9.7% per ACNielsen.

For the full 52 weeks ended May 20, IRI still shows Brawny ahead of Viva 10.4% to 9.1%, in data that excludes more than half the market, including Wal-Mart Stores, club stores and dollar stores. Even by IRI's annual data, though, Viva narrowed the gap with Brawny by 1.4 share points in a year.

Web show didn't help Brawny
Showing his sensitive side hasn't helped the Brawny Man much with women. In a groundbreaking effort by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Fallon last year, an actor playing the brand icon hosted an online reality show at BrawnyAcademy.com, where he taught the manly arts to men found lacking by their women.

The show moved grown men on its teams to tears, but didn't move many rolls of paper towels. Brawny sales fell 4% to $242 million for the 52 weeks ended May 20, according to IRI.

"I think I was one of the few people who watched all the episodes," said Mr. Wears. Executives from Fallon and Koch acknowledged last year that while the webisodes had a substantial impact on brand image among people who watched them, not as many watched as they had hoped.

Mr. Wears aspires to more success from Viva's more conventional nontraditional effort, by getting more people to notice a brand that's been under-marketed for years.

Unusual sampling effort
Already, Kimberly-Clark has boosted household penetration of Viva by 42% in the past year, largely through increased distribution and retail promotion made possible by added production capacity, as the company has put more strategic emphasis behind Viva, Mr. Wears said.

This unusual sampling effort "gets the product, which we believe is superior to competitors, in the hands of consumers," Banc of America Securities analyst April Scee wrote in a June 5 research note, adding that it "should help convince them the premium price is justified."

She cited the campaign as an example of the impact K-C's new chief marketing officer, Anthony Palmer, is having in bolstering the company's marketing efforts.

K-C also is boosting spending on in-store marketing behind Viva, having bought exclusive category rights on Catalina Marketing's Checkout Coupon system this year and exclusive rights to News Corp.'s SmartSource in-store media starting next year.

How to tell if your towel's a boy or girl

Where do you look to see if a paper towel brand is male or female? Why, here, of course. Or on the label.

Bounty You'd think Nancy Walker, aka Rosie the Waitress, would've made the Quicker Picker Upper a girl. But no -- at least per Kimberly-Clark's research. Bounty shares the tool belt with Brawny. Rosie, and her bud Josephine the Plumber, were tough gals, after all.

Brawny The new Brawny Man may be a modern, more sensitive, less porn-starish guy. But he is still a guy.

Viva The name does end in an "a," and by whatever means, Viva's the most girlish among major towel brands, according to K-C research.

Sparkle In some quarters, this is a girl's name. But what little advertising the brand has had included "It's a tiger of a towel." Not a tigress.

Scott Definitely a guy name. And those bold, manly package graphics leave little doubt.

Coronet Discontinued a few years back in the U.S., ceding the female ground to Viva. Rosemary Clooney, George's aunt, gave it that feminine touch.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Viva's ad effort was handled by K-C roster shops WPP Group's JWT and MindShare. The new Viva effort is from Anthem Worldwide
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