Saturday June 15, 2013

NEW YORK -- Procter & Gamble is planning to blanket Manhattan on June 19, giving away thousands of its trial-size products as the world's largest consumer product makers aims to build awareness about its brands.

The event comes as the Cincinnati-based company struggles with turning around lackluster results under its newly reinstalled CEO A.G. Lafley. P&G said during its most recent quarterly call with analysts in April that it was ramping up spending on trial-size products to help get the word out on P&G product benefits. The company is trying to balance restoring market share growth in developed markets like North America with investing in rapidly developing emerging markets overseas.

P&G makes well-known brands like Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste, Ivory Soap and Pampers diapers that are found in 98 percent of American households. But not everyone connects brand names with parent companies.

In fact, P&G research showed that while the average American household uses 10 P&G products, most consumers can only name two or three brands, said Jodi Allen, vice president of North America marketing and brand operations.

So to tie the P&G name in more closely with its brands, the company is staging a massive sampling event in New York City on June 19, distributing more than 40,000 products throughout the day under more than 25 of its brands, including Cover Girl, Gillette, Duracell, Pampers, Old Spice, Febreze, Scope, Iams and Crest.


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New York was chosen for the giveaway because of its diverse population, she added. "It's the world's biggest stage," Allen said.

In five pop-up temporary locations that resemble big blue boxes across the city, product samples will be given out, stylists will give tips and celebrities will make appearances. There will also be teams roaming the streets giving out samples of Old Spice, Febreze, Tide and other products. A pedi-cab will be offering free rides and samples throughout the city as well.

Umbrella campaigns -- which showcase a parent company logo alongside of individual brands -- are nothing new. P&G promoted the company brand during its "Thank you mom" TV ads for the Olympics last year. And it has also touted its brands with its decade long "Everyday" campaign that offers consumer tips, coupons and samples via a website, www.pgev erday.com.

But European consumer product companies like Unilever in the Netherlands and Reckitt Benckiser in the U.K. have had more success with umbrella branding campaigns than P&G. That's largely because in the U.S., brand loyalty is based more on individual brands, said Bernstein Research analyst Ali Dibadj.

"I get what they're trying to do, create more trial (size products) for the products in the belief that they have the best products out there," he said. "But Americans have loyalties at the individual brand level, so I don't know what the value is of promoting P&G as opposed to Tide and Pampers."

Because Procter & Gamble brands in America are often pricier than its rivals, the company invests in advertising to get the message across that its brands work better. P&G is the world's largest advertiser, according to research firm Kantar Media. That strategy has hit road blocks at times, such as during the recession and in some emerging market categories, where price is key.

In fact, lackluster market share performance led the company to replace CEO Bob McDonald with his predecessor, Lafley, in May.

P&G is also working to adjust pricing, cut costs and focus on its top performing categories to improve market share trends globally. In the January-to-March quarter, net income rose 6 percent to $2.57 billion, as North American market share improved and revenue inched up 2 percent to $20.6 billion.