Monday, October 29, 2012

Think Through How to Wipe to the New

It’s once again time for my participation in the annual Bathroom Blogfest. Each blogger is to write from their interpretation of this year’s theme, “Still Climbing Out.” For me, the theme brings to mind change. How to gently and cleanly wipe shoppers and ourselves along.
     Such change can be a challenge with bathroom routines because many of those routines are firmly embedded in rituals consumers prefer not to reveal to retailers or discuss with friends.
     I’m thinking about what happened in 2001 when retailers started selling Cottonelle Fresh™ Rollwipes, called by the manufacturer Kimberly-Clark, the “First Major Toilet Paper Innovation in Over 100 Years.” These were pre-moistened wipes designed not to clog plumbing.
     Kimberly-Clark did much right in introducing the product:
  • Before developing the item, they inquired about the extent of Americans’ desire for moist toilet paper. They found that more than 60% of adult respondents said using a moist wipe is cleaner and more refreshing than using dry toilet paper. 
  • They sold the product in a dispenser which held both dry toilet paper and the moist wipes. The dispenser fit on standard toilet paper holders, and the moist wipes were held in a container which kept them from drying out quickly. 
     At product introduction, Kimberly-Clark estimated first-year retail sales in the U.S. would be $150 million, and could ultimately reach $500 million. Kimberly-Clark competitor Procter & Gamble was impressed. The company launched a parallel product, Charmin Fresh Mates.
     But retailers soon found that compared to projections, sales tanked, and then limped along. Why? In my opinion, Kimberly-Clark failed to recognize that Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes were not a product innovation consumers would enthusiastically discuss with each other. You couldn’t expect widespread word-of-mouth recommendations. This wasn’t destined for social networking Followers and Likes.
     There were also other factors: Advertising needed to be tasteful so settled for slogans like “Sometimes wetter is better.” Kimberly-Clark didn’t give free samples at the start. The price point was high enough that those 60% who preferred moist toilet paper would be tempted to keep moistening the dry variety in the privacy of the bathroom.
     There may be good reason no major toilet paper innovation had come along in over 100 years.
     When you choose products which consume precious shelf space in your store, think through how well you’ll be able to make the case for purchase. Word-of-mouth, both face-to-face and via social networking, is essential.

Click below for more:
Climb Out of Mistaken Assumptions
Peek Into Bathroom Rituals

1 comment:

  1. Bruce, what a thoughtful topic which touches on an essential aspect of communicating benefits to consumers. There are some topics that people just won't talk about, especially with marketers, even when the need exists.

    I hope Kimberly-Clark can climb out of this one...

    Thanks for being part of Bathroom Blogfest.