Wednesday 2 June 2010

Please Don't Squeeze the "Cushelle"?

I have returned from my annual total immersion in the world of trademarks, also known as the International Trademark Association Annual Meeting. Flush with a plethora of memories, new professional insights, and even a new business card or two, what better way to return to the blogosphere than a consideration of the rebranding of the "Charmin" toilet paper product to the new mark "Cushelle" in Europe.

I must confess: There are few advertisements more memorable for me Stateside than the immortal words of the fictional Mr. Whipple: "Please don't squeeze the Charmin". The brilliance of the message--that toilet paper could be so soft as to invite a furtive squeeze or two-- was one of the few advertising instances where the message was fused with action ("ah, the clerk is gone, now is the time for me to give a squeeze"). Surely, I must have thought, if "diamonds are forever," then Mr Whipple's plea regarding the toilet paper must run a close second for a place in the pantheon of great advertisements.

At least with respect to Europe, and without knowing whether or not Mr Whipple made it to the other side of the Atlantic, I thank fellow blogger Ian Hartwell for recently alerting me to a January 25, 2010 report about the rebranding campaign that appeared at Being sympathetic to the old bromide about "better late than never", I have managed to glean from the article the following salient points regarding the February 2010 rebranding of that iconoclastic product name.

1. " The “Cushelle Koala” will replace the “Charmin Bear” in advertising, on packaging and on the embossed tissue. SCA (the full name of the company is Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebogaget here), the Swedish corporate owner of the brand, says it chose the new brand name and koala icon to reflect the product’s softness and appeal to families and Charmin loyalists.

2. "Each new pack will be labeled with ‘formerly Charmin’ on the purple swoosh and the message “same irresistible product, brand new name” to reassure consumers."

3. Since the erstwhile Charmin brand was purchased two years by SCA from Procter & Gamble, there have been no tv ads. With the launch of the new brand, tv ads will be renewed. As well, there will be a new website containing both informational and promotional contents here as well in-store and other forms of advertising and promotion. All in all, over 10 million sterling are reported to have spend in connection with the launch.

4. Cushelle brand marketing controller, Emma Heald, says: “We are investing heavily in the campaign to make sure we reassure our consumers that our product has not changed and we’ll be using the marketing campaign to drive loyalty to the brand and ultimately market share for Cushelle. We are really confident that consumers will connect with the new brand name and icon, we think this is also good news for the category and will engage consumers.”

Holding constant both Mr Whipple and the from-Charmin-to-Cushelle evolution of the bear behind the product, I have several observations:

First, one wonders about the track record of rebranding, especially of a consumer staple in a highly competitive market.

Second, the reliance on the marketing message, "the same irresistable product, brand new name", together with the reference to the erstwhile name, is certainly interesting. The company seems to be betting that (a) the product has recognizable quality; and (b) consumers are willing to engage in the effort of transferring their allegiance to the new name, instead of seeing the campaign as an opportunity to perhaps explore competing brands of the product. Or perhaps the slogan is more directed at potentional new customers, drawn to the claim of quality and willing to give the Cushelle product a try.

However the launch develops, I look forward to engaging in a bit of stealth the next time I am in a London store selling the product. One more squeeze, just like the old days, in homage to MrWhipple.

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