Tide’s New Beauty Secret

If shampoo can keep your hair looking healthy, it can do the same for your clothes.

That’s the thinking behind this month’s launch of Procter & Gamble’s Total Care subbrand for Tide and Downy. The laundry detergent and fabric softener will borrow a number of ingredients typically found in beauty care products, such as silicone, polymers and chlorine neutralizers. The end result? Clothes that stay fresh looking after 50 washes.

P&G is planning a $60 million spend for both brands to get the word out. 

“We’ve looked to our beauty care lines for inspiration in the past,” said Kash Shaikh, a rep for P&G, Cincinnati. “But this is really the first time we’ve embraced this idea of elevating the category from fabric care to fashion care.”

Total Care is yet another example of P&G’s willingness to poach from other brands and product lines. In the past it has scored hits by adding Febreze to its Tide and Downy products.

However, this new line takes P&G’s innovation a step beyond co-branding. “Organizationally, this is not so easy to do,” said Daniel Mahler, a partner with A.T. Kearney, Chicago.

“Fabric and home care and beauty care are huge businesses in themselves. They’re larger than your large consumer packaged goods company just on a business unit level. Haircare alone is in the billions.”

Both products boast their own taglines. Tide advertising will focus on the “seven signs of beautiful clothes.” Ads will promote the fact that Tide Total Care “cleans thoroughly, protects color, preserves shape, maintains finish, enhances softness, prevents pills and fights stains.” Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, handles.

Downy, on the other hand, urges fabric softener users to “help keep that first-wear love alive” with the line’s proprietary mix of chemical technologies.  One Tide TV spot dubbed “Catwalk,” for instance, shows women of various shapes and sizes modeling trendy and washer-friendly clothes on a runway. The 30-second ad airs at the end of this month.  Print ads for both break in September. Grey, New York, handles Downey’s print and TV ads.

“Today, when value is as important an issue on consumers’ minds than ever before, the opportunity to market a product that combines the best of beauty care techniques with the best in fabric care is something we know is really going to excite them and have them feeling like they’re getting the most for what they pay for,” said Shaikh.

Tide Total Care will sell for $6.99 for 20 loads and $12.99 for 40 loads. Downy will run $5.49 for 48 loads and $7.79 for 72 loads.

While line extensions can dilute many brands, Steve Yastrow, author of We: The Ideal Customer Relationship (Select Books, New York), said Total Care can succeed. “We know how effective Tide is at cleaning our clothes; in fact, we’ve known it our entire lives. Tide, with its strong brand story, can focus on these new benefits and not worry about creating dissonance with its core brand values.”

At the same time “these new features can neutralize the worst part of the current brand, which is that strong cleaning power might be rough on your clothes,” Yastrow said.

P&G spent $126 million advertising Tide last year (excluding online) and $39 million for the first four months of this year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. It spent $54 million on media behind Downy in 2007 and $27 million January through April 2008.

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