No more launch 'em and leave 'em: P&G learns to commit

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Catherine Pascucci had seen the TV ads for Mr. Clean Magic Eraser when it launched in fall 2003, but she didn't really believe them. "Everything claims it takes things out," she said. "I use a quarter of a bottle. It doesn't work and then it sits under the sink."

But on the recommendation of a grandmother of six, the Scarsdale, N.Y., preschool teacher bought a Magic Eraser nine months ago to scrub stubborn stains left by her students on tables and walls. It worked so well, she bought more to use around the house to clean up after her own five children. Now, she's the one recommending Magic Eraser, having pitched it to three or four friends lately. "I sound like a commercial for it," she admits.

Looking to leverage raves like Ms. Pascucci's, Procter & Gamble Co. is using its six-million-circulation e-mail newsletter and Web site, Home Made Simple, to collect accolades that have come from thousands of Magic Eraser fans. Handled by Barefoot Advertising, Cincinnati, the plan is to develop an interactive house to suggest uses for the product P&G never even envisioned.

But the effort for three-year-old Magic Eraser is remarkable in that it points to a realization at P&G: While new products are the bread-and-butter of sales growth, old products can drive growth, too.

P&G's sales were up 10% for the fiscal year and fourth quarter ended June 30. While two points of that growth came from currency effects and sales in developing markets were growing about three times as fast as in developed markets, P&G is still beating most rivals on the top line, thanks in part to old products and continued support of launches in their second and third year.

In its second year, Magic Eraser sales were up 40% for the year ended July 10 to $33.3 million, according to Information Resources Inc. While P&G spent more than $60 million on media support for the product in 2003, according to TNS Media Intelligence, it continued that support in 2004 to the tune of $30 million.

The Home Made Simple interactive house effort is a lower-cost way of continuing to build buzz in year three as Mr. Clean turns its attention and media dollars to more recent initiatives, such as the Magic Reach bathroom cleaner system launched earlier this year.

Magic Eraser's continued sales stand in stark contrast to major P&G launches five years ago, which started strong but tended to lose momentum and sales in year two. Such new brands as Febreze, Swiffer and Dryel had significant falloff in year-two sales. While Febreze and Swiffer ultimately regained momentum, Dryel never did.


P&G Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley has called the old approach "Launch `Em and Leave `Em," blaming the natural "action orientation" of marketers and managers interested in moving on to the next big introduction. In its place, Mr. Lafley has instituted the "Launch and Leverage" movement.

"If they are winners, we stay with them and we stay with them as long as we can to keep building the trial curve among the target audience, and we're on third and fourth year with some of these initiatives and innovations," Mr. Lafley said on a conference call Aug. 1.

Magic Eraser isn't alone among the continuing new-product success stories. Such products as Tampax Pearl and the Pampers Baby Stages of Development line have continued to see major share gains in the second and third years of their rollouts.

In the year ahead, P&G may have more opportunities than usual to leverage old launches.

Several of its new products that had been on allocation, including Tampax Pearl, Prilosec OTC, Olay Quench, Febreze Air Effects and some items in the Pampers lineup recently have come off allocation programs where P&G rationed them with retailers because of supply-chain issues.

Mr. Lafley said P&G will be stepping up marketing behind such products, even referring to some of those efforts as re-launches.


Magic Eraser’s continued sales stands in stark contrast to major P&G launches of five years ago

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