P&G Issues Tide ColdWater Challenge Online

Procter & Gamble has placed the Web at the center of a big, new initiative for the Tide brand. The company is introducing Tide Coldwater detergent via viral interactive marketing before offline efforts begin later this month.

The product’s value proposition is that it cleans clothes — even whites — in cold water, allowing consumers to reduce their energy costs. Tide executives also say clothes washed solely in cold water maintain their colors better and last longer, further saving consumers money.

“What we want to do is reinforce to the consumer that this product actually delivers deep cleaning in cold water conditions and that it also saves them energy,” said Randall Chinchilla, manager of external relations for Tide.

The focus of the effort is a Web site that touts product features and offers an interactive calculator for consumers to see how much money they can save by washing in cold water. The campaign’s viral aspect has people signing up to sample the product and telling their friends about it via email. When a consumer signs up, an orange dot appears in her location on a U.S. map.

When the consumer uses the “tell a friend” email feature, the friend gets a note that says: “[Consumer’s name] recently visited www.tidecoldwater.com and learned all about Tide Coldwater, a new detergent that helps you save energy, money and your clothes…. Just follow the link below to learn about Tide Coldwater, take the ColdWater Challenge, and get your own free sample!”

When the friend clicks and signs up, an orange line connects the dots between the consumer’s location and the friend’s location. As time goes on and more people sign up, consumers can watch their viral networks develop. People who have signed up but aren’t part of the individual consumer’s network are displayed as blue dots. More than 157,000 blue dots appeared on the map at press time. Tide says that on average, consumers visit the site multiple times, apparently to check on their network’s development. The Web site was designed by WhittmanHart Interactive, while the email tracking and mapping technologies were developed by Eyebeam.

“With Tide with a touch of Downy, we had 800,000 to 1 million samples requested online. That’s an important channel to reach consumers,” said Chinchilla. “This time around we want them to really get excited about the benefits, as well as the ‘seeing is believing’ aspects of trial.”

Procter & Gamble initially spread the word about the ColdWater Challenge Web site through PR efforts and a partnership with the Alliance to Save Energy, an energy efficiency advocate. Part of that alliance includes P&G posting energy-saving tips on its Coldwater site. For its part, the Alliance sent its email list subscribers information about the benefits of washing in cold water, mentioning the Coldwater product. That email blast began the viral cascade.

Tide also sent email announcing the ColdWater Challenge to a subset of its newsletter subscribers.

“We sent it to a randomly selected group to just gauge initial response and see how far this would go. We wanted to make sure we would understand the response that it would have,” said Joe Colaco, Tide’s interactive manager.

The company said it wasn’t concerned about being perceived as encouraging people to send spam to their friends and families.

“It’s good news, that I, [as a consumer, would] want to tell my friends about. You get an opportunity to sample the product, and it’s a very nice proposition,” said Chinchilla. “You forward to people you know, people you care about.”

A television campaign for the product, developed by Saatchi & Saatchi, will begin at the end of January. It will start with four 15-second TV spots, which will later be followed by a 30-second spot. Tide executives said they hadn’t yet determined whether the offline ads would point consumers to the interactive portion of the campaign.

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