But when Tide Coldwater launched in February, more than a million consumers pledged online to try it and tell their friends about it. Media coverage generated 343 million consumer impressions, five times the average Procter & Gamble Co. launch.
Credit a marketing campaign that sometimes looked more like issue advocacy, orchestrated by Julie Woffington, associate marketing director-North American Tide.
Ms. Woffington, 34, an eight-year veteran of P&G who helped launch Febreze and buoy the sagging Cheer brand, led the brand's partnership with the non-profit Alliance to Save Energy to promote the benefits of washing in cold water-with its specially formulated detergent. The launch came as energy prices were spiraling, helping make it topical. Tide drove the point even closer to home with inserts in utility bills.
"Should George W. Bush take Jimmy Carter's cardigan out of mothballs, he can wash it in Tide Coldwater," suggested one of the promos.
P&G didn't forget demo-laden TV ads from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. But surrounding them was an intricate plan, including the viral campaign from WhittmanHart Interactive, Chicago, which let people track their friends' responses.
Tide's third-quarter share is up more than 3 points to 43%, with Tide Coldwater at 3% in August, up roughly a half percent a month since launch, according to P&G's data from VNU's ACNielsen, even as Tide's price promotion spending has fallen. According to Information Resources Inc. data, P&G's overall laundry shares are near record highs in recent months of 60% in liquid and 75% in powder.
Better still, despite a premium price, Coldwater is appealing to lower-income and ethnic consumers with whom Tide has been weak, says Ms. Woffington.