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Dial Corporation: Dialing Up Success

March 1, 2010

Launch of Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets succeeds even with the economy stuck in a downward cycle

By Bob Barrett

It would have been easy to pull the plug. In early 2008, as the Dial Corporation was readying the launch of a new premium product, Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets, the economy was heading south, unemployment was high and climbing, and consumers had already become sensitive to pricing. Still, the company made a bold decision to move forward with the largest product launch in its history. "We wondered ourselves whether or not this initiative would be as robust in a downturn as it was when things were going well," recalls Brad Casper, president and CEO of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company.

Today, the answer is clear: Dial's investment in Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets has resulted in $50 million in sales so far, according to the company. That's the kind of ROI that puts a smile on Casper's face, elevates his already high appreciation for the role of marketing in driving growth, and renews his contention that "you can make $1 look like $10 if you are creative and think about your target audience."

Casper, along with Greg Tipsord, senior vice president and general manager for Dial's laundry care business, recently shared some insights on the success of the Purex Complete 3-in-1 campaign.

The Strategy

The integrated, 360-degree campaign featured a mix of traditional and nontraditional tactics - including TV, aggressive public relations, innovative in-store marketing, social media to drive word of mouth, "coming soon" messages on the caps of Purex-branded products, cause marketing, and the enlistment of brand endorsers called Purex Insiders. "This had more touch points, more dollars, and more creativity in reaching our target audience than anything I've been affiliated with," notes Casper, who became CEO of Dial in 2005.

According to Casper, the campaign looked beyond price and focused on the product's ability to simplify the chore of doing laundry (each scented sheet provides a load's worth of detergent, softener, and anti-static agent.) "The whole idea of simplification is hard for people to see in terms of how much it is worth, but they saw it in this sheet," Casper points out. "There's no hoisting a heavy jug of detergent and filling the cap according to a line that he or she may or may not be able to see. That simplification of the task was worth more than the price we were asking them to pay."

Dial's strategy of recruiting and enlisting 200 Purex Insiders, Casper says, was a central component of a broader social media strategy. "That was new for us, and it's the best case of where $1 starts to look like $10," he adds, noting that the insiders became mavens, advocates, and bloggers who were tremendously effective in spreading the word and putting forth the perspective of a Purex user. "If you get a committed advocate, like a Purex Insider, they really can move people. And they speak the language of our target audience because they [are] moms with cleaning challenges and laundry challenges."

The company also took a partnership approach with retailers. "Part of the success with our selling and the in-store support was that we partnered with our retailers early on in the process," Tipsord says. "We were sharing this product with them for a couple of years. So as we got more to where we knew we would be able to commercialize it and launch it, we had a timeline set up. We were able to really dig in, understand their key ways of merchandising, and gain their buy-in up front. That really allowed us to make this an A-class launch across a multitude of retailers."

Tipsord took comfort in the extensive consumer testing, all of which returned "extremely high value readings," he says. "The key consumer insight here was that the laundry process had become more complex than it ever had been before, and there were just so many choices of so many different products out there. This just made it simpler and easier for consumers to get the laundry done. And that was the inherent and very large benefit and driver of value."

The Lessons

There are many lessons to be gleaned from the Purex Complete 3-in-1 launch, but Casper says perhaps the most valuable is that consumers, like corporations, will look beyond price alone and consider cost-benefit scenarios when making purchases that deliver value. "At times we convinced ourselves that Purex, as a value detergent, has to be at a certain cost per ounce or cost per load," he says. "And what this product was consistently telling us is that we had more elasticity than we may have given our brand credit for, and that how value is defined is not limited to the cost per ounce but to the benefit received."

Tipsord recalls that consumers were savvy enough to recognize that they didn't need to buy three different products at the store to do their laundry. "There was a process improvement there and, at the same time, there actually was a cost savings when you look at the cost of using three separate products compared to one sheet," he notes. "So there are inherent value benefits throughout this product in terms of price, in terms of process improvement, and in terms of just overall simplification. And we came to see that in every single consumer test we did."

Casper called the launch a team effort, with marketing playing a key role - as it should, he says, in driving growth for a company, especially in recessionary times. "I do expect marketing to be the lead dog in this fight, but it won't go into the fight by itself and can't achieve success unless it gets great support from three primary functions - sales, supply chain, and R&D."

The Purex Complete 3-in-1 launch, in particular, best exemplifies what can be achieved when all team members work together, Casper says. "Never had we had so much synchronization with the same simple messaging about our three benefits in one," he notes. "That's when you get synergy upon synergy upon synergy, and $1 looks like $10 and $10 looks like $100. That's what really accounted for one of the fastest starts and buildups of a new product in this category that we've seen in this decade."

Tipsord adds that Dial continues to glean key insights from Purex Insiders. "We have gone back to those consumers and continued to talk to them about the brand, give them other ideas in terms of how this brand can make their life simpler and better, and we continue to see benefits from that," he says.


"Dial Corporation: Dialing Up Success." Bob Barrett. ANA Magazine, March 2010.

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