Procter & Gamble is preparing to make its presence known in the food aisle with the launch of a new recipe site. Now for the twist: P&G has almost no food brands.
P&G’s lone food brand, Pringles, will have nothing to do with the new Web feature, called DinnerTool.com. Instead, the consumer-products giant’s strategy is analogous to how Goodyear has prospered by showing sports cars in its advertising; the company doesn’t make cars, but all cars need tires.
In test since July, DinnerTool.com will allow consumers to view and post recipes, as well as organize a mobile shopping list according to ingredients. While they’re visiting, however, consumers will see plenty of P&G’s brands that come in handy around the kitchen where spills and overall messes are part of getting dinner on the table.
Given P&G’s slim and ever-waning interest in the food category (over the years, the company has spun off edibles like Duncan Hines, Jif and Folgers), DinnerTool.com may seem like an anomaly.
But Rich DelCore, the company’s director of brand building organization, said this latest initiative is part of a P&G push to move more of its brands into the digital space. “Yes, it’s a little different for a nonfood company to get into this space,” DelCore said, “but it was about a consumer insight.”
What insight might that be? That heads of households are more time-starved and value-conscious than ever. “Meals and meal preparation are a real problem area for moms and families in general,” DelCore said.
P&G hopes that DinnerTool.com will solve that problem with content like meal ideas and a recipe database that lets users sort by diet restrictions, cuisine and ingredients. But the real thing P&G hopes to achieve is to promote its paper towels. (Bounty, thus far, is the site’s main sponsor.) “We all know that dinnertime can be a messy experience for families,” said Dave Lee, Bounty brand manager. “Bounty’s aim is to help families [not] to worry about the cleanup.”
Household brands like Swiffer and Cascade will also advertise on the site, and P&G is pitching DinnerTool.com internally as a way to extend brands’ marketing platforms, DelCore said.
But the company isn’t putting much mass media support behind DinnerTool.com. In keeping with its digital focus, P&G is growing the site—which had 180,000 unique visitors in December, per the company—via Facebook, Twitter and Vocalpoint, the company’s own word-of-mouth, mommy-influencer network.
P&G isn’t the only consumer-goods company with a high propensity of nonfood brands in its portfolio to take this tack. Last September, Kimberly-Clark, the personal care and tissue products rival of P&G, ran a print and Web campaign with the Food Network’s Sunny Anderson. The effort touted Viva’s strength and absorbency.
Though neither P&G nor K-C are heavily entrenched in the food space, Tom Denari, president of ad agency Young & Laramore, said that this kind of related-sell strategy makes sense: “Whether it’s dish detergent or paper towels, people tend to think of the kitchen more than anything else when they think of those products,” he said.
Mike Arauz, a strategist at New York-based digital think tank Undercurrent, agreed, but said P&G may be a bit overambitious. Given the countless Web sites devoted to food, cooking and recipe sharing, he asked, “What’s the demand for something like this?”