Sun Products Brings Health & Wellness to Life
Rosemont, Ill. — Challenger brands typically lack the finances and overall capacity of category leaders, so how do they succeed in connecting with retailers and breaking through to shoppers?
First, they need to figure out how to square the circle of getting their brand, retailers and shoppers on the same page. Then, they need to connect emotionally with shoppers, according to Derek Joynt, executive vice president, client leadership, at The Mars Agency.
During a panel discussion at the Path to Purchase Expo in September, Joynt and colleague Kristen Sabol, vice president, client leadership, appeared with Ken Krasnow, vice president, omnichannel marketing, at Sun Products Corp., a subsidiary of German-owned Henkel Corp. They detailed a campaign to promote Henkel’s laundry and household cleaning brands that did so well at Sam’s Club, the retailer asked them to sign over the assets at the conclusion.
Success was far from guaranteed at the outset. “Working with our retailers has not become easier. It takes a lot of hard work,” said Krasnow, who came to Sun Products from PepsiCo. “As a category leader, retailers are depending on you. As a challenger brand, it’s, ‘Hey, do you want to hear from me?’ You’ve got to find very creative ways … to earn that seat at the table.”
There are a plethora of laundry and household product brands and no obvious way to stand out. Initial discussions centered around moving from transactional relationships to emotional connections with shoppers, which Krasnow notes has worked well for brands like Gatorade and Starbucks. But to suggest, “I’ve got to make my laundry brand connect with consumers on an emotional level?” he said. “That’s a taller climb.”
To overcome smaller budgets, challenger brands need to tap their creativity like the creators of “Star Wars” did when developing the original film, before it had become a cash-cow; or like Mick Jagger did in developing his signature dance moves on small stages before the Rolling Stones became an international icon, Krasnow said. “How do we, as a challenger brand, move like Jagger without big budgets?” he said. “If not everybody is working hard in the right ways, you have to find different roles for them.”
Sun Products and The Mars Agency approached Sam’s Club with a brief detailing “how to bring health and wellness to life,” Sabol explained, detailing tactics to produce a win for brand, shopper and retailer. The partners suggested synthesizing shopper data to build an understanding of what’s important to her and could lead to a growth strategy. “We’re talking to a busy mom. Her house being clean and her family being healthy is what’s important to her,” she said.
But the brand marketers and the agency were aware that a functional approach would not help them take advantage of the potential opportunity in a $500 billion category expected to grow 50% in the next five years. So they leveraged an insight from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that helped them build in emotional resonance: that in addition to diet and exercise, keeping healthy means a clean, dust-free, mold-free, dry environment.
“Most illness is derived from the home,” Krasnow said. “This [insight] will enable us to talk on a whole different level to mom.” Sabol added: “How do we do this in a new and unique way, to engage her?”
They settled on the theme: “Take care of your home like it’s your family.”
Among the “fun facts” that Sun Products and The Mars Agency presented: Your pillow doubles in weight over time due to dust, skin particles and sweat, but you can wash a pillow with detergent and even include a tennis ball in the washer to keep the pillow fluffy. Also, when you wash your hands, only half of germs come off – and the other half comes off on the towel. That presents a potential sanitary disaster at a party if you’re serving hors d’oeuvres, unless you offer disposable hand towels.
“Now I’ve gotten a deeper level of recognition” for the needs fulfilled by cleaning products, Krasnow said. “We produced videos that dimensionalize these hot spots.” Those videos and the insights behind them “got a bite” from executives at Sam’s Club, and they worked together to build the program “from the ground up,” he said.
The 25 videos focusing on hotspots around the house were “very visual, you could watch them on your phone or other mobile device and understand the product solution very quickly,” Sabol said. “We delivered a nirvana of incremental sales for the brand and retailer, and drove people into the category with shopper-content interaction.”
In addition to top-line sales increases, the campaign produced mightily on video views, comments and shares, indicating high levels of engagement, Krasnow said. And probably the proudest success was Sam’s Club’s request to sign over the assets of the program. Ultimately, he said, “We got a seat at the big-boy, big-girl table.”