SpongeTowels (E)

Packaged Goods--Food/Other (GOLD)
Sustained Success (GOLD)

Client Credits: Kruger Products L.P. (formerly Scott Paper)
Nancy Marcus, Corporate Vice-President Marketing
Wendy Mommersteeg, Category Director - Paper Towel
Humberto Baruzzi, Marketing Manager - Paper Towel
Alex Amon, Director - Marketing Research

Agency Credits: john st.
Angus Tucker and Stephen Jurisic, Co-Creative Directors
Rob Trickey, Art Director
Neil Shapiro, Copywriter
Stuart Campbell, Art Director
Mia Thomsett, Copywriter
Kyle Lamb, Art Director
Kurt Mills, Copywriter
Emily Bain, Director of Strategic Planning
Sarah Henderson, Sr. Strategic Planner
Heather Crawley, Team Leader
Ali Reid, Account Director
Madison Papple, Account Executive
Michelle Orlando, Executive Broadcast Producer

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 14. Refreshing a continuing campaign.
Crossover Note 20. Emotional versus Rational.
Crossover Note 21. Likeability.

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


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):December 25, 2006 - December 18, 2010
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: September 2006
Base Period as a Benchmark: 52 weeks ending December 24, 2006

a) Overall Assessment
In Spring 2006, Kruger (formerly Scott Paper) completed the name transition of ScotTowels to SpongeTowels. Kimberly-Clark owned the brand name and had been licensing it to Kruger Products for use in Canada for the previous 10 years, but the license was not being renewed and it was expected that the brand would return to Canada under Kimberly-Clark ownership in 2007.

At this point in time, the branded paper towel category was composed primarily of Procter & Gamble’s Bounty and SpongeTowels.

The strength of the Bounty brand was indisputable. Repeated unbranded consumer use testing by Kruger between 2003 and 2006 showed that the consumer preferred SpongeTowels Ultra on a number of key measures including overall performance. Despite this, when branded, Bounty always outperformed SpongeTowels on key product attributes. Bounty also dominated top-of-mind awareness with 55%, versus 19% for SpongeTowels. Claimed usage also netted out in Bounty’s favour with 61% of consumers claiming to have used it in the past 6 months and only 47% saying the same for SpongeTowels. (Footnote 1)

This dominance was the result of a few factors. As with most P&G advertising, Bounty’s messaging had always had product efficacy at its core. Side-by-side demos were central to all television ads with a focus on key functional messaging. They were also perceived to be technical innovators, launching new variants on a regular basis, which added to their quality credentials. Their commitment to product superiority was unfailing and the tagline, The Quicker Picker-Upper, was a well-known signature for the brand.

Additionally, Bounty had an overwhelming share of voice in the category. It was heavily supported in the U.S. prior to its entry to Canada in the 1990s, leading to a significant awareness before the product was even available in Canada. Additionally, its North American strategy made the border irrelevant as any spill from U.S. stations was supporting the Canadian message. It is estimated that the $75 - $85 million U.S. advertising budget translated to an incremental $1.5 - $2.0 million in value in the Canadian market. When added to an already healthy media presence in Canada, Bounty dominated the airwaves with 60-65% share of voice. (Footnote 2)

At the time of the new campaign’s launch, Bounty led the category with a 23.8% market share while SpongeTowels trailed with a 12.7% share. Control Label was also a formidable player with a 48.2% share, while the balance was made up of very small branded players. (Footnote 3)

b) Resulting Business Objectives
A long-term stretch goal of unseating Bounty as the market share leader.

c) Annual Media Budget
$3 - $4 million

d) Geographic Area
English Canada

Footnote 1: Burak Jacobson, Paper Towel Category Tracking Research, 2004-2006
Footnote 2: Nielsen Media Canada, Paper Towel Category Spending, English Canada 2006 and Nielsen Company USA, Paper Towel Category Spending, 2006
Footnote 3: Nielsen MarketTrack, Equiv Case Volume, English Canada, 52 wks ending December, 2006

a) Analysis and Insight
Prior to transition, ScotTowels had been positioned as the brand for “real-life messes.” This brand idea had been developed based on consumer learning that all moms weren’t necessarily motivated by the clinical, scientific messaging in Bounty advertising.

ScotTowels represented a real-life problem solver that helped moms clean up and get on with life, not a brand that was in the laboratory testing different scenarios to prove its efficacy in the event that a mess (heaven forbid!) happened.

This approach had enhanced the likability of the brand but had not been as effective at building perceptions of product quality. [Crossover Note 21] We still believed that there was an opportunity to own the hearts of women 25-54 by entertaining them and showing them that the SpongeTowels brand was more connected to the reality of their lives. We also, however, had to win over their minds by demonstrating quality and efficacy in a more aggressive way. [Crossover Note 20]

The name SpongeTowels was inspired by a little-communicated descriptor for the quilted pattern on ScotTowels that was maintained following the transition: sponge pocket embossing. Absorbency was a key driver in the category and was also proven as an area of strength for SpongeTowels over Bounty based on unbranded consumer use testing. While Bounty touched on all key drivers in their advertising, strength and speed were their focus, leaving absorbency open to SpongeTowels ownership.

Sometimes powerful insights come from tapping a consumer attitude or behaviour. In this case, the insight came from the product itself. The Sponge Pockets, if properly leveraged, could give the brand a distinctive positioning and improve product performance perceptions. [Crossover Note 1]

b) Communication Strategy
We answered the challenge by bringing the Sponge Pockets to life - literally. We created an army of advertising characters whose only purpose was to suck up spills and clean up messes. Because there were “thousands in every pack of SpongeTowels,” they were ready for any mess no matter how big or how small.

We also used the fact that we were the only player in the market with our distinctive embossing pattern to elevate the competitiveness of our tagline without making an outright superiority claim that could lead to a legal challenge. After all, “With thousands of super absorbent Sponge Pockets in every pack, nothing absorbs like it.”

a) Media Used
- Television
- Some media integration in support

b) Creative Discussion
The campaign launched in the Fall of 2006, and since then there have been multiple extensions. While we knew from the outset that this idea was an incredibly inspiring starting point creatively, we also discovered that it lent itself extremely well to evolving brand communication objectives over the years, which is a true test of a strong long-term campaign.

Launch (2006): The first :30 ad was called Jug and it launched in September 2006. The response was tremendous. It also set the stage for the Sponge Pockets as entertaining and memorable brand differentiators.

White World (2007 – 2008): The next four :15 executions (Water Cooler, Water Gun, Bath Tub and Grape) were launched in early 2007 to run in rotation with Jug :30. These were produced on a shoestring budget in a very short period of time to more aggressively target Bounty’s product superiority, and to mitigate the impact of a Scott Towels re-entry by Kimberly-Clark later that year.

Based on initial success we introduced two new :15s in 2008 (Pool and Wet Dog), extending the “White World” campaign of :15s from 2007.

Spokes-Pocket (2009): Three years into launch we felt there was an opportunity to let our target get to know the Sponge Pockets on a personal level, and we launched the first ads featuring a Spokes-Pocket in 2009. The humour and fantasy in this creative enabled us to be more aggressive with respect to product efficacy than we ever had in the past. For example, in Sponge :30, our Sponge Pocket challenges an actual sponge to an absorbency duel in the kitchen sink. And of course, the Sponge Pocket is victorious.

Epic Absorbency (2010): While the team was very pleased with the personality and efficacy communication in the Spokes-Pocket creative, in the Spring of 2010 we decided to return to the roots of the creative idea, and demonstrate the power of a thousand Sponge Pockets. Production and Talent budgets continued to pose a challenge and would not allow for the inclusion of thousands of Sponge Pockets in our advertising, so we created the “epic-ness” of thousands using three of the most motivated and enthusiastic we could find. This became Stampede :30, the spot currently on air.

While the campaign has clearly been successful from a hard metric perspective, its success can also be measured in its ability to deliver entertaining and fresh advertising year after year. This consistency in brand cues but flexibility in message is especially important as SpongeTowels battles Bounty, and reacts to newer players in the category such as the K-C version of Scott Towels and Cascades. [Crossover Note 14]

c) Media Discussion
Television has been the primary medium over the years as it was judged to be the best vehicle to bring the Sponge Pockets to life. We also worked hard to stretch our media dollars by using a combination of :30s and :15s.

In recent years, we've had success with Excelerator Media, integrating SpongeTowels into television programming such as Steven and Chris and Best Recipes.

a) Sales/Share Results
In the four years since the launch of the campaign, SpongeTowels has increased case volume by 45%, outpacing category growth by a substantial margin. (See SpongeTowels Volume Growth Chart; Footnote 4)

This has resulted in a more than 5-point increase in market share despite two new players (Cascades and K-C's Scott Towels) entering the national stage and a couple of others supporting their brands for the first time in years (White Swan and Majesta). (See SpongeTowels Market Share Chart; Footnote 5)

This increase in volume and market share has also generated substantial dollar volume. Retail sales have increased by 38% in the past 4 years, delivering an incremental $13.8 million in dollar sales. (Footnote 6)

The campaign also drove a 5 point increase in household penetration despite a 6.4 point decrease for the category as a whole. (See SpongeTowels Household Penetration Chart; Footnote 7)

SpongeTowels has also made tremendous gains in perceptions of product efficacy, both in comparison to where they were before the launch of the new campaign and relative to Bounty. (See Brand Attribute Ratings Chart; Footnote 8)

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

Footnote 4: SpongeTowels Volume Growth, ACNielsen MarketTrack, Equiv Case Volume, English Canada, 52 wks to December 2006-2010
Footnote 5: SpongeTowels Market Share, ACNielsen MarketTrack, Equiv Case Volume, English Canada, 52 wks to December 2006-2010
Footnote 6: ACNielsen MarketTrack, Dollar Volume, English Canada, 52 wks to December 2006-2010
Footnote 7: SpongeTowels Household Penetration, ACNielsen HomeScan, 52 wks ending December 2005, 2010
Footnote 8: Brand Attribute Ratings, Burak Jacobson, Paper Towel Tracking Research, English Canada Fall 2005, Fall 2010

a) General Discussion
Over the past 4 years, advertising has been the primary marketing activity supporting SpongeTowels and has been the key driver of success, as evidenced by sales and advertising metrics.

Advertising recall has continuously increased from a starting point of 62% in the Fall of 2007 to 81% in the Spring of 2011. (Footnote 9)

Additionally, association of the Sponge Pockets with the SpongeTowels brand has increased by 10 points from its starting point of 46% in Spring 2007. (Footnote 10)

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels: Category spending has gone from approx. $6.2 million in 2006 split between two players to $13.6 million in 2010 split between four primary competitors and a few smaller ones. During this time, the SpongeTowels budget did increase but not enough to protect its share of voice, which dropped from 35% in 2006 to 21% in 2010. This not only proves that increased spending was not a factor in the success of the business over the past 4 years, but also reinforces the impact of the campaign given the positive results in a much more challenging environment. (See Category Share of Voice Chart; Footnote 11)

Pricing: The paper towel category has always been a very active category with respect to promotional pricing and this has increased over the past several years. No one player is more or less engaged in the pricing wars, however, so in that respect it is a level playing field.

During the period in question SpongeTowels dollar volume increases kept pace with case volume increases for the most part indicating that volume growth was not at the expense of retail sales and therefore was not the result of deep discounting. (See SpongeTowels Case & Dollar Volume Growth Chart; Footnote 12)

Distribution Changes: As a brand with broad, national distribution at the start of the campaign, SpongeTowels has not achieved any new distribution in English Canada during the campaign period that could markedly affect sales.

Unusual Promotional Activity: As indicated earlier, all available resources were focused on advertising efforts during the campaign given the share of voice challenges in the category. As such, there was no unusual promotional activity that could have been responsible for the success.

Other Potential Causes: There have been no other product, economic or consumer factors that would have positively impacted SpongeTowels that would not have also influenced Bounty and the other competitors.

After 5 years, the SpongeTowels brand has made tremendous progress in its efforts to take on the Bounty machine and it has done this by leveraging a product-linked insight in an extremely unique and memorable way. This case proves that you can build equity, drive quality perceptions and drive substantial business success even in the most low-interest categories and against the most formidable competitors – no side-by-side demo required.

Footnote 9, 10: Burak Jacobson, Paper Towel Category Tracking Research, Fall 2007 - Spring 2011
Footnote 11: Category Share of Voice, Nielsen Media Canada, Paper Towel Category Spending, English Canada 2006, 2010 and Nielsen Company USA, Paper Towel Category Media Spending, 2006, 2010
Footnote 12: SpongeTowels Volume Growth, ACNielsen MarketTrack, Equiv Case + Dollar Volume, English Canada, 52 wks ending December 2006-2010