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Tide is the world's biggest selling detergent brand, as well as Procter & Gamble's #1 brand in its core market, the US. Although Pampers outsells it globally, no other brand in the company's portfolio is as important in a single territory, or has been as significant historically. In fact the so-called "washing miracle", the world's first synthetic detergent, was the main motor for Procter & Gamble's massive expansion after the brand's launch in 1946, leading its charge into other product sectors in the US, as well as around the globe. Stablemate Ariel is the worldwide #2 detergent, and P&G's lead laundry brand outside the US.
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P&G dominates the global laundry industry, but especially the US market, where it has bolted on additional share with a series of clever product innovations, including jointly branded alliances with other megabrands within the group's own portfolio (such as Downy and Febreze) to offer added value and appeal. Even with a brand that long ago reached maturity, and celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2016, P&G has continued to widen its lead over other manufacturers.
Tide is the world's biggest detergent brand with total sales estimated at around $6bn in 2016, including around $3.6bn in the US. Its closest rival is stablemate Ariel at around $4.5bn globally. The two brands lead P&G's assault on the world's detergent markets, splitting the globe between them. Tide is the company's main laundry soap brand in North America, China and what are generally smaller international markets in Europe, Latin America and Asia (where it is sometimes marketed locally under Tide's colours, but with the name Ace or Vizir). As Tide Clean White, the product has proved a dynamic force in China, capturing around 16% share by value of the country's laundry detergent market.
Ariel is a different product, based on enzyme technology which dissolves stains normally resistant to normal detergents. This brand leads the assault in major European and Latin American territories. The two brands co-exist in only a handful of large markets (such as India, Russia and China). In most such cases, Ariel is positioned as P&G's higher priced brand, with Tide occupying the middle price band, and other, often locally acquired products as value brands.
Tide's main home is the US, where it is marketed as a premium product, priced at around $11 for a 100-ounce bottle. The domestic detergent market is dominated by Tide in particular, and by Procter & Gamble in general. Its other brands in that segment include detergents Gain, Cheer and Era, as well as supplementary products such as fabric conditioner Downy. Tide is the best-seller by far, with around 41% market share, more than the next five brands combined.
The US market is split into two main segments, liquids and powders. The introduction of less messy, more convenient liquids in the mid-1980s revolutionised the market as a whole, and this segment is now far bigger, with the gap between the segments continuing to widen each year. By 2009, however, there was evidence that Tide's US market share had come under considerable pressure from value brands, whose sales have surged in the wake of the declining economy. Nevertheless, the brand still comfortably dominates its market. According to IRI figures for 2016 (52 weeks to Jan 2017, all retail, Grocery HQ), Tide still held around 35% share of the liquid detergent market, with sales estimated at $1.9bn. That was three times higher than the #2 brand, P&G stablemate Gain with 11% (or $583m). P&G had a total 55.4% share of the overall category, equivalent to sales of over $2.9bn. Tide also dominated the shrinking and much smaller powder market. Main rivals are Henkel North America (now including the former Sun Products portfolio) with around 22% share and Church & Dwight with 17%.
The sheer number of different versions of each brand says much about the sector as a whole. There is only so much you can do to add genuine perceived value to a household basic like washing powder, so the key to market dominance is format and "new and improved" ingredients. That isn't just adspeak - Tide is now covered by more than 45 different patents, and has gone through more than 60 product upgrades since its launch in 1946. Most have proved a success, with only Tide Multi-Action Sheets a significant failure. These were introduced in 1986, single sheets of fabric containing detergent, bleach and fabric softener all in one product. Designed to be thrown in with dirty clothes, the pockets of detergent and bleach dissolved in the wash; bundled into the dryer afterwards, the fabric softener was activated by the dryer's heat. But consumers were not impressed by the price, higher than powder or liquid; or by the apparent ultimate convenience. Research at the time suggested they preferred more flexibility in the amount of detergent they added to their wash, instead of the sheet's pre-measured quantities. The product was dropped in the US in 1988.
For a while the biggest potential development in the US market promised to be the introduction of tablets in 2000, a format change that threatened to prove as revolutionary as the introduction of liquids. Although well-established in Europe by the end of the 1990s, when Unilever had seized the lead in several markets [see Persil profile for more] all manufacturers were slow to introduce the new format to the US. The reason for the delay was a simple difference between European and US washing machine designs. Most European machines are front-loading, a format well-suited to tablets; however the vast majority of US machines are toploaders, where the compact size of tablets was deemed to be less of a benefit, especially after the failure of Sheets. However both P&G and Unilever were panicked into action by the creation of a joint venture in 1999 between US player Dial and German detergent giant Henkel, initially to launch a liquid form of Dial's Purex detergent.
Fearing the joint venture might steal a march on them in tablets, both companies brought forward their plans. P&G got there first, launching Tide tablets in October 2000, followed by Unilever's Wisk two months later. Dial purchased the German tablet technology and finally introduced their Purex tablets in 2001. (Two years later, Henkel took full control of Dial). In the end however, tablets and the liquid capsules and "liquitabs" which followed them into the European market failed to take off in the US. In 2011 P&G announced plans to make a new attempt to turn around US consumers with the launch of Tide Pods, three-part single-dose liquid tablets which are slightly more sophisticated than liquitabs already marketed in Europe. These were to have launched in Sept 2011 with a substantial marketing push. However, production problems forced the group to delay full launch until Spring 2012, allowing other manufacturers to rush out their own competitive products. After that difficult start, sales appear to have done well, with Pods on target to hit $500m in sales for their first full year on-sale, well ahead of rival products. SymphonyIRI estimated that Pods had captured a commanding 73% share of the single-dose detergent market by the end of 2012. For their first full year on-sale, IRI ranked Tide Pods as the most successful new packaged goods launch of 2013, with total sales of $325m. By 2017, sales are estimated to have risen to as much as $1bn.
P&G has sought other ways to capture consumer interest, adapting its product variants to the changing public mood. In fact, for several years there has been a changing roster of around 35 different formats of Tide available to US consumers. In the late 1990s, the company introduced more concentrated forms of its existing powder and liquid formulations under the Ultra Tide umbrella. These required smaller quantities of detergent to achieve the same level of cleaning, and the Ultra Tide formulation gradually replaced Original Tide. Other innovations followed, such as Tide Coldwater, introduced in 2004. This promises the same deep wash without using up energy to heat the water. Other energy-saving products include Tide HE, for use in money-saving high efficiency washers. (Front-loading high efficiency machines, standard across Europe and many other global markets, are still in the minority in the US, although penetration has risen from 13% of the market in 2003 to 23% in 2005). Another comparatively new ploy has been to market a more concentrated form of Tide, which claims the same washing power with half the detergent. Packaged in a smaller container, it is supposedly easier to use as well as better for the environment. Although primarily a reaction to a move by Unilever's Small & Mighty format, this strategy was adopted by Procter & Gamble for Tide in the US in 2007, under the name Tide 2x Ultra.
However P&G's most effective strategy has been to pair up its market-leading laundry brands to offer even greater perceived value and benefit. The first example of this "Tide Plus" strategy arrived in 2004, with the launch of Tide With A Touch Of Downy, a combined detergent and fabric softener which claimed to offer "an irresistible combination of softness and clean". It proved enormously successful, so much so that the company launched Tide With Febreze Freshness in 2005, with additional odour-fighting ingredients. This was followed by Tide With Dawn, which claims to improve the removal of food stains using technology from the company's top-selling dishwashing product. (In other global markets, Tide - and also Ariel - offers similar co-branded products with the addition of the company's other fabric softener Lenor).
Tide Total Care, launched in 2008 as a premium priced product, even added a cocktail of additional chemicals usually found in beauty products. This "Protective Fiber Complex" includes lubricating silicone-based technology that reduces abrasion between fibres and helps protect a garment's colour and shape "even after 50 washes". Tide Simple Pleasures introduced in 2007 offered more sophisticated fragrance bouquets such as magnolia and orange blossom, or water lily and jasmine. For shoppers worried about the allergic effects on skin of added perfumes and dyes, there is also Tide Free & Gentle, as well as Tide with Bleach and even Tide with Bleach Alternative. By 2009, however, the pressures of recession and its effects on consumer spending persuaded P&G to step several steps backwards and launch a stripped-down value version of Tide. Introduced quietly in some markets mid-year, Tide Basic didn't include some of the product's more recent "new and improved" benefits and was priced at around 20% less than the main line. Surprisingly perhaps, sales were not strong, and the product was quietly phased out again during 2010. The group made another attack on the value market at the beginning of 2014 with Tide Simply Clean & Fresh, priced at around 35% less than regular Tide, and packaged in yellow containers to differentiate from the main brand.
The company has also experimented with add-on products including the Tide Kick liquid pre-treater and the Tide Stainbrush, a battery-powered brush (similar to an electric toothbrush) with an oscillating head to help Tide Liquid penetrate into stains. Perhaps the most unusual product extension is the Tide Buzz Ultrasonic Stain Remover, manufactured by Black & Decker. This is a powered device which "combines ultrasonic energy waves with a powerful Tide Buzz Ultrasonic Cleaning Fluid to break up tough stain particles and knock them out of fabrics." These weren't quite so popular, although the Tide To Go instant stain remover pen has lasted the course. The big new launch for 2009 was Tide Stain Release, an in-wash booster, to improve cleaning results.
Since 2005, P&G has used Tide as the lead brand for the Loads of Hope community support program, which helps regions of the US affected by flood or storm disaster. Among other initiatives it offers a mobile laundry service to families forced to leave their homes as a result of storm damage. The group also licenses the Tide name for Tide Dry Cleaners, a chain of franchised dry cleaning stores. It began testing a home laundry pickup and delivery service in Chicago in 2016 under the banner Tide Spin. Other cities were added to the service over the following years, and P&G has announced plans to expand the offer nationally by 2020, with more than 2,000 pick-up and delivery locations.
Procter & Gamble already had decades of experience in the soap market by the time it launched Tide in the mid-1940s. For most of the first half of the century, bar soaps such as P&G's lead brand Ivory, were a multi-purpose commodity, used as much for washing clothes as for personal hygiene. Gradually, however, new advances in technology had allowed these two functions to be differentiated for better efficiency. The first development was the refinement of the manufacturing process to produce flakes, which could be more easily dissolved in the laundry tub, and saved customers the inconvenience of having to hand-cut the soap themselves. This led to the launch of Ivory Flakes in around 1918 as a separate product from the original Ivory bar. The introduction of the first washing machines at around the same time created further demands upon the process, leading to the introduction of Chipso in around 1922. This was a more coarsely flaked soap with added chemicals which were more effective at removing stains without necessitating the sort of labour-intensive scrubbing action of a handwash. Supported by a major marketing campaign, it quickly established itself as America's top-selling packaged soap.
Further refinement led to the development of a process for producing soap in granules, which dissolved even faster in water. The first brand to be launched by P&G with this technology was Oxydol, actually an existing regional product which the company acquired in 1927. Already manufactured in coarse powder form, it was quite well-established in areas in the Mid-West because its formula was designed to combat the high mineral deposits in local water supplies, which reduced the ability of ordinary soaps such as Ivory to lather properly. P&G adapted the formula, and refined the powder process.
The next breakthrough came from further experimentation with a process initially developed in Germany during World War I. Because of the scarcity of soap during the war, German scientists had been forced to develop a synthetic detergent (actually derived initially from cattle bile). Although expensive to produce and foul-smelling, it did have one major advantage in that, unlike traditional soap, it worked with highly mineralised hard water but didn't leave behind a tell-tale curd or scum. Having purchased the basic rights to manufacture this synthetic product, P&G's scientists refined the product further to create two new products, not only America's first synthetic laundry detergent, Dreft, introduced in 1933, but also the first mass-produced packaged liquid shampoo, Drene, launched the following year.
The first year of peace after World War II marked another important watershed for the company. Although it had achieved some success with the launch of Dreft a decade earlier, that product had significant disadvantages as well. It did lather in hard water without leaving a scum, but it wasn't especially effective at removing ground-in dirt from fabrics. Following further refinements, P&G's scientists came up with a new formulation that was capable of handling all kinds of dirt as well as almost all levels of water hardness. This was baptised Tide, to suggest the power of the sea, and of a freshly swept beach. "Tide's In, dirt's out" promised the initial ads for the product. In 1946, P&G began testing Tide in selected regional markets, adjusting the formula repeatedly in response to customer feedback, adding perfumes, reducing the levels of ingredients which discoloured sinkholes and grates, and improving the richness of the suds. The latter point was especially important since most housewives quickly came to equate the power of the wash with the abundance of its suds. P&G researchers ensured that Tide delivered "Oceans of suds". As the brand's distribution spread, so did its popularity, and by 1949 it outsold all the company's other brands.
Just as significant as its scientific breakthroughs was the marketing campaign which P&G put behind this new "washing miracle". The company was already well-experienced in radio sponsorship, which it had used skilfully on behalf of Oxydol since the 1920s. For Tide, though, the company tackled the newest development in mass communication, television. In 1952, Tide was the first laundry detergent to run a commercial, depicting a woman hanging clothes out to dry on a beach before wrapping her child in a freshly laundered towel: "The cleanest clean under the sun". As its existing brands, such as Oxydol, fell behind Tide as well as synthetic detergents introduced by competitors, the company set about bolstering its position with a second brand, Cheer, launched in 1956, its powder artificially coloured blue to differentiate it from Tide. However the company's lead product has retained its position as the dominant brand in its market, consistently widening its lead over all potential rivals.
Ariel was P&G's first enzyme detergent, first introduced in Germany and North America in 1967. It was subsequently rolled out in other markets in Europe, Latin America and Asia, with varying degrees of success. It proved a massive success in Mexico, for example, where it was first launched in 1968, becoming P&G's first blockbuster brand in that market, and the leading detergent by 1977. Following its success there it was rolled out into other Latin markets during the 1980s, and by 1990, accounted for 65% of P&G's total synthetic detergent volumes in the region. It was similarly successful in Europe, introduced in France in 1968 and the UK in 1969 as well as other major markets.
Last full revision 2nd February 2018
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