Since the mid-eighties marketers have been looking for franchise opportunities for their brands. The most likely suspects were the industries where customers were not loyal enough or satisfied enough to make market-entry an easy(ier) proposition. On those grounds, the dry cleaning category would be a perfect candidate, and Procter & Gamble has come up with an approach they think is unbeatable: Tide Dry Cleaners.
Yes, that Tide, P&G’s best-selling laundry detergent. Clearly they are looking at the Tide brand as something that can insert itself seamlessly into the industry and immediately take the high ground That’s something Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business Professor, called “disruptive innovation.” From the brand perspective, we agree. Tide ranks number 1 in our loyalty and engagement index and is the top-selling brand in the laundry detergent category. This year’s ranking looks like this:
3. Wisk / Gain
5. Purex / Era
6. Arm & Hammer
That kind of positioning bodes well for the brand and for a new industry entry.
But brand itself – even one rated number 1 – isn’t enough these days. Tide comes to the category confrontation loaded for bear. They have nearly a million Facebook fans to reach out to and engage. And let’s be honest with ourselves, while brand is the most critical aspect of any marketing effort, and ultimately the real differentiator, customer behavior is governed by customer expectations held for a number of category-specific attributes, benefit, and values like service, environmental sustainability, and pricing.
Tide not only has an already-developed, in-going customer base, but are said to be offering things like 24-hour and drive-thru pickup and delivery and cleaning methods that will be extraordinarily gentle to the environment. Not to mention a heritage of promotional experience that includes discounting, couponing, and added-value giveaways like P&G products and gift cards. Not a lot of neighborhood mom-and-pop dry cleaners can compete with that kind of marketing. Also, who can compete with the smell of Tide, evoking memories of mom, clean sheets, and home?
The dry cleaning industry generates nearly $8 billion dollars annually, so you’d think there would be room for one more competitor. But based on the Tide brand and the plans for the brand, it looks as if P&G will clean up.
Literally and figuratively.