Dawn Takes Off the Rubber Gloves

Dawn is dishing out some criticism at its competitors in a new campaign.

The Procter & Gamble-owned dish care brand launches new digital creative this week touting the product as more powerful than two bottles of a  rival, nonconcentrated product. TV, print and in-store ads — carrying the same theme — first began rolling out last month. The competitor in the ads is unnamed, but the tall, slender bottles strongly resemble Colgate-Palmolive’s lower-priced Ajax brand.

The approach is a new one for Dawn, which, until recently, had focused its marketing message on highlighting new product attributes.

One such campaign, for instance, describes Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty as dish soap that “transforms the look and feel of your hands in just five uses.”  Dawn’s latest move, though, comes as some data show Ajax has grown a bit faster than Dawn.

P&G maintains the campaign — which carries the tagline, “One bottle has the strength of two” — isn’t “aggressive” per se, but simply meant to entice consumers as they continue to skimp down on household purchases in a downturn.

Dish care sales, for the most part, have been bubbly in a recession, as more consumers eat in and stay at home. (Translation: More dishes to wash.) Dish care advertisers, taking their cue, likewise upped spending by 53 percent to $58 million last year, per Nielsen, which doesn’t include online expenditures.

For the 52 weeks ended June 13, dollar sales of Dawn, the category’s No. 1 dish detergent, grew 18.3 percent to $147.1 million. Sales of Ajax, meanwhile, rose 22.8 percent to $99.7 million. Private label is right behind with an increase of 12.3 percent, or $45.7 million in sales, during that period.

P&G, however, is hoping to stanch some of that growth. A TV spot via the Kaplan Thaler Group, New York, shows an animated orange sponge readying an unnamed dish detergent — and an army of scrubbers — for the battle: a pile of dirty plates and utensils. Before it can even start tackling the mess, however, a hand appears and switches the bottles. The new warrior in the fight against grease is now a blue bottle of Ultra Dawn detergent.

The ad then makes the claim that one drop of Ultra Dawn has the cleaning power of two drops of a (again unidentified) rival.

Dawn brand manager Dan Jackson said the campaign is aimed at getting consumers to change the shopping habits they might have adopted in last year’s tough economy. Whereas many consumers now shop “autopilot” when it comes to selecting the cheapest-priced detergent brand, doing so doesn’t necessarily equate to saving more money, he said.

“What we’ve found is that this is in fact not true,” he said of the latter, adding that P&G derived its new value claim following research. In truth, consumers actually save more by switching to Dawn, which gets the job done the first time around — and with fewer drops of detergent, he said. P&G was largely able to convince consumers of the same thing with Tide 2X, a version of the liquid detergent that requires half the usual amount thanks to a new concentrated formula.

In its research, the consumer products company found that consumers would often “buy a big bottle of [detergent thinking they’d get a] great value. But when we educated them about the benefits of Ultra Dawn, and they learned they can actually use less product,” many actually converted, Jackson said.

Dawn, which increased spending by 39 percent to $43 million last year, also per Nielsen, did not disclose the exact amount for this effort, but Jackson said it’s the “biggest brand equity message” in many years.