Mr. Clean gets $50M push

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After playing the 98-pound weakling to more powerful cleaning brands inside and outside Procter & Gamble Co., 45-year-old Mr. Clean is muscling in with its two biggest launches in a decade, backed by $50 million in marketing support.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, an all-in-one, all-purpose cleaner-sponge combo that will retail for about $1, hits stores in early September with TV and print ads breaking Oct. 1 from Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York. Also backing the launch will be an unusually beefy flight of six consecutive months of high-value newspaper coupon drops.

car wash

Then in January comes Mr. Clean AutoDry, a car-wash product launching in the seemingly untimely dead of winter, pointing out its usefulness for washing cars without water. AutoDry is Mr. Clean's first entry into automotive products, where it will take on rival Clorox Co.'s ArmorAll, which is launching its own car-wash wipes this summer.

A P&G spokeswoman confirmed the launches but declined to provide further details.

The introductions represent a major shift of emphasis for an iconic brand that in recent years seemed to garner more respect outside P&G than inside. As Mr. Clean did cameos in the late 1990s for such brands as Honda and EconoLodge-and even for a 2000 get-out-the-vote effort-he was getting ever-shorter shrift at home as P&G focused on its "new-to-the-world" Febreze and Swiffer brands. Mr. Clean extensions into such areas as mops, gloves and toilet-cleaning tools in recent years were licensed to third parties. But P&G is keeping its latest new Mr. Clean products for itself.

In the U.S., Mr. Clean got $25 million in measured media support in 2002, including retro black-and-white TV ads with a vintage `50s-style jingle. But its new products until recently have been "me-too" new scents, as Mr. Clean became one of many players piling into the orange segment blazed by upstart Orange Glo International.

declining sales

Mr. Clean's core liquid-cleaner business has seen declining sales and share since a move to downsize bottles by concentrating the cleaner backfired with consumers, opening the door for such rivals as Clorox Co., SC Johnson & Son and Reckitt Benckiser to surpass P&G in U.S. household cleaners in the 1990s. The brand's share of the all-purpose cleaner category fell from 9.1% in 1992 to under 5% last year, according to analyst reports.

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