SpongeTowels - Quebec

Sustained Success (SILVER)

Client Credits: Kruger Products
Nancy Marcus - Corporate VP of Consumer Marketing
Wendy Mommersteeg - Category Director - Paper Towels & White Swan

Agency Credits: Saint-Jacques Vallée Y&R; PALM + HAVAS
Saint-Jacques Vallée Y&R (2010)
Suzanne Bourret - V.P Corporate Affairs and Development
Daniel Poirier - Creative Director
Carole Plante - Art Director
Annie Chevalier - Copywriter
Vicky Maxwell - Senior Account Executive
PALM + HAVAS (2007-2009)
Ann Bouthillier - President and CEO

Crossover Notes:
Crossover Notes: All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2012 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at www.cassies.ca

Crossover Note 1. What a Brand Stands For.
Crossover Note 3. Core Equity versus Price & Promotion.
Crossover Note 17. Turning a liability into a strength.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):January 2008-December 2010
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: February 2008
Base Period as a Benchmark: Calendar 2007

a) Overall Assessment
Scott Paper Company (USA) merged with Kimberly-Clark (USA) in 1995. In 1997, Montreal-based Kruger Inc. acquired Scott Paper Limited (Canada), which later became Kruger Products Limited.

Kruger was authorized to use the ScotTowels brand name until 2007. In preparation for this Kruger went through a major exercise to transition the product, and to create a new brand: SpongeTowels. In 2007, Scott Towels also re-entered the market under the wing of Kimberly-Clark. This made it even more difficult for SpongeTowels since the two brand names were very similar, and ScotTowels had the advantage of having become the generic name for paper towels in Quebec.

The name SpongeTowels had been inspired by a proprietary embossing process that created "sponge pockets." This provided added strength and absorbency and was a key difference between SpongeTowels and its competitors. [Crossover Note 1]

The transition from ScotTowels to SpongeTowels lasted 3 years. The challenge was to convince consumers to convert from ScotTowels to SpongeTowels and secure their loyalty. [Crossover Note 17]

Once the transition was well on its way, we needed a long-term strategy that would sustain and increase sales while building a new brand and gaining Quebecers’ share of heart. The answer came from developing a character that would personify the "sponge pocket" advantage: and “Spongie” was born.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

• Short term: Increase volume share
• Mid-term : Take paper towel leadership
• Ensure a strong brand link in order to eliminate confusion with K-C's version of Scott Towels
• Leverage differentiation (Sponge Pockets)
• Build an emotional bond with Quebecers and become their favorite brand

c) Annual Media Budget
$500,000 - $1 million

d) Geographic Area

a) Analysis and Insight
SpongeTowels had to compete and differentiate itself from well established brands which have a strong advertising positioning:

• Bounty, the market leader, which had always used convincing visual demonstrations of their product strength superiority (e.g. a wet Bounty supporting the weight of different objects longer than a competitive brand).

• Cascades, which is close to Quebecers’ hearts with its environmentally friendly products and made in Quebec claim.

Nevertheless, in 2007, SpongeTowels had almost the same share as Bounty [18.5% versus 18.8% - Footnote 1]. This was quite an achievement given the following:

• Top-of-mind awareness was 11% vs 35% for Bounty
• Share-of-mind awareness was 22% vs 48% for Bounty
• Claimed brand purchase was 44% vs 53% for Bounty [Footnote 2]

Although the volume share was very close to Bounty’s, there was still a big gap in the brand awareness and claimed brand purchase levels. If efforts on improving brand awareness were pursued (and confusion with a new Scott Towels entry from Kimberly-Clark was eliminated) the leadership of the category could be within our reach.

On the downside, though, the economic crisis hit the world in 2008, and a lot of control labels were launched [Footnote 3]. This made it more difficult for premium brands like SpongeTowels to perform well. [Crossover Note 3]

b) Communication Strategy
The target was active moms 25-54 with children at home. These moms don’t have time to lose testing brands. They want a quality paper towel they can trust; one that will reduce the burden of daily chores.

To connect with this target we had to leverage the benefit of absorbency and bring it to a higher, more emotional level. We would to go much further than a functional Bounty-like comparative demonstration. We would get people out of trouble/messes, and this would which make them feel relieved and grateful.

How? By giving life to the Sponge Pockets, by creating a friendly advertising character.

While for rest of Canada, the direction was to have an army of Sponge Pockets guys in the advertising. In Quebec we wanted to personalize this and chose a local celebrity close to Quebecers’ hearts, François Massicotte. Humour, as most people know, is particularly appreciated in Quebec, and it made a lot of sense to have our character played by this popular stand-up comic.

“Spongie” became the ally that you can rely on. He is always there to quickly clean up the mess thanks to his multiple Sponge Pockets, and this enabled us to emphasize absorbency in a more entertaining way -- in endless situations of Quebecers’ everyday life over the years.

Footnote 1: Nielsen Markettrack
Footnote 2: Burak Jacobson, Facial Towel, Paper Towel and Bathroom Tissue, Spring 2011 Tracking
Footnote 3: Nielsen Homescan: 52 wks to Jan 5/08 and Jan 3/09

a) Media Used
Over the 4 years, ten different stories ran on TV (See a selection in the links below):

2007: “Plombier”, “Bonne fête”, “Lit d’eau”,

2008: “Bébé”, “Poisson”, “Papier”

2009: “Salon”, “Salle de bain”

2010: “Magicien”, “Hockey”

b) Creative Discussion
Generally speaking, the spots are telling a 30-second story with a funny situation that shows the incident, the product demonstration, Spongie’s intervention, and the mess repaired thanks to the Sponge Pockets. The structure is like a mini-sketch featuring everyday life.

While demonstrating the absorbency difference, these stories allow us to emphasize the Sponge Pockets, not only with a close-up on the pattern of the paper but in a more entertaining way.

Because of the potential confusion with Scott Towels, the packaging has also been crucial to SpongeTowels recognition. Therefore, the last frame always shows the packaging prominently.

c) Media Discussion
Between 2007 and 2010 most of the media budget was invested in TV in order to quickly reach the target.

a) Sales/Share Results
SpongeTowels sales took a slight dip in 2008 (because of the recession) but since then have grown steadily, hitting 646K tonnes in 2009 and 686K tonnes in 2010 -- an increase of 11.7% over 2007. At the same time the SpongeTowels share has gone up from 18.5% to 20.4%, while Bounty -- now a clear #2 behind SpongeTowels -- has edged down to 18.6% (See the table below.)

It is important to note that during the same period SpongeTowels decreased the media investment from $1127K to $686K (-39%) [Footnote 4]. The growth of the brand was therefore not due to a higher level of investments. (See the graphic below.)

Also important to note, SpongeTowels, unlike Bounty, is not sold at Costco. When looking at the sales without Costco’s contribution, the SpongeTowels results are even more impressive. [Footnote 5]. (See graphic with the "cones" below.)

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

Footnote 4: Nielsen Media (excludes social media, USA Spill, program integrations)
Footnote 5: Source: Nielsen Markettrack

a) General Discussion
Despite the decrease of media investments:

• The brand attributes ratings remained high over the period, with “absorbency”getting the highest score. [Footnote 6]. (See the graphic below.)

• Advertising recall and association was consistently stronger for SpongeTowels than for Bounty [Footnote 7]. (See the graphic below.)

• Prompted awareness of the unbranded ads also remained strong over the period [Footnote 8]. (See the graphic below.)

• The association of Sponge Pockets to SpongeTowels continued to be strong and was always stronger in Quebec than nationally. (See the graphic below.)

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels: As noted, spending decreased.

Pricing: There was nothing outside of the norm.

Distribution Changes: Distribution was not a factor.

Unusual Promotional Activity: This is a category with a good deal of promotional activity, but it was not out of the norm.

Other Potential Causes: N/A

Footnote 6: Burak Jacobson, Facial Towel, Paper Towel and Bathroom Tissue, Spring 2011 Tracking
Footnote 7: Burak Jacobson, Facial Towel, Paper Towel and Bathroom Tissue, Spring 2011 Tracking
Footnote 8: Burak Jacobson, Facial Towel, Paper Towel and Bathroom Tissue, Spring 2011 Tracking