The destruction of the Ivory® brand

The package design when I was a kid

The fictional scene: a Proctor & Gamble marketing department conference room, circa 2007.

“Today’s meeting is to discuss P&G’s long-term plans for the dismantling of the Ivory brand. Why? It’s plain, it’s vanilla, and it’s boring. It doesn’t even have colour; it’s the very definition of lacklustre. Sales are stagnant and we all know that shareholders raise eyebrows at status quo and no growth. These may be the towers that Ivory built, but today it represents less than 1% of P&G sales – it’s inconsequential at best. Frankly, we view it as an albatross ’round our necks and we need to end the brand over the course of the next several years and leave that particular customer base in the past, but in a somewhat subtle fashion. Now I want imaginative ideas on how we could go about this, even ones that you may think sound stupid.”

“I have one. Let’s make Ivory bars smaller in the most annoying way possible…not shorter, but narrower, so it doesn’t even feel like the same bar millions of people have been holding in their hands for decades.”

“Great idea. If we shave maybe three-quarters of an ounce off the sides, that will save us big time on shipping costs, too.”

“And we could disguise the size change by doing it at the same time as next year’s ‘Olympics edition’ bars and the package redesign. Kind of like ‘Look, up in the sky!’ while you’re relieving a mark of his wallet. Anyone complains, we just say consumer surveys showed most people wanted smaller bars or some other such malarkey.”

“Some people will probably curse us for years to come every time they unwrap another bar and are reminded yet again of our stripping the familiarity off the shape. It’ll be the epitome of irksome!”

“Good point. It’s a fine idea that I’m sure will be approved. Who else?”

“I have one. You know our liquid hand soap that’s pretty much the only national brand that both rinses off easily and leaves no scent?”

“Sure. What about it?”

“What if we got rid of it entirely? Just cut off one of the brand’s limbs, the heaviest one that costs us the most to move around.”

“Well, that seems pretty nasty. I like it. Now that’s thinking outside the box.”

“Box? What box? I don’t see any boxes of liquid hand soap around here!”

“Ha!”

“And former customers would be annoyed, I mean properly annoyed, as they see the last of the national supply dwindle on eBay and Amazon whilst its price per ounce rises to that of a top-shelf whisky.”

“Very nice. Anyone else?”

“Along those same lines, what if we were to introduce an Ivory body wash?”

“We’re talking about the destruction of the brand, not creating new products.”

“No, no, stay with me on this. You did say ‘somewhat subtle’.”

“Go on.”

“Here’s the twist: We make this new body wash pretty much impossible to rinse off in the shower, even with intense spray. Five minutes…six minutes…doesn’t matter – it just won’t come off!”

“Absolutely brilliant. They’ll hate it! They’ll hate us!

“And you know what? You might even fool some of the former liquid hand soap users into trying this body wash – once, anyway! – thinking maybe it would be like the old liquid soap. Picture them at their sink for twenty minutes trying to rinse it off, failing miserably and now both slimy and late for work. Idiots!”

“Ha! ‘Out, damned spot! Out, I say!’ All right, I think this is a good start. Let me bring these ideas to the high mucky-mucks and we’ll see what they say. Good job, folks.”

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