Tuesday, March 20, 2007

36. Brand Work

We had some very successful brands in our toilet soaps portfolio. Lifebuoy was the market leader in the health soaps although a P&G brand was posing a strong challenge with a comer brand, Safeguard. We had Lux, an international brand that was pitted against the major beauty toilet soap brands of P&G and Colgate. I was handling Ever, a local brand that had quite a following and a developmental international deodorant brand, Reward.

Front: Vic de la Torre, Hank Nijk,Tony Tolentino, Ato Manigat Back: Ed Roa, Gus Villanueva, Ding Camua, Jes Dinglasan, Gilbert de los Reyes, Frankie Gonzales, Joe Feliciano
 The total share of the company in the toilet soaps market was the bigger than all of the competing companies taken together. We had more than 60% of the market at the height of our dominance. At that time we were relentlessly being besieged by the P&G entries in all segments of the toilet soap market. Lux, being an international brand was given development priority to strengthen the defense of our total market leadership. It was waging an intense war against P&G’s Camay. Lifebuoy although a stalwart brand at that time needed to be modernized and given a less masculine and workman’s utilitarian image. Its carbolic soap reputation that was associated with soaps used by kids with scabies and as a dog’s soap also needed to be addressed. It was beleaguered by the aggressive onslaughts of Safeguard, a heavily supported brand from P&G.

I had two brands. Ever toilet soap was positioned as a fragrance soap and had a sizeable share but was losing shares for lack of logistical support. The other brand was a developmental one. Reward was a premium deodorant soap that unabashedly promised social acceptance through freedom from body odor. Body odor was considered a touchy subject and was never directly addressed by any antibacterial brand of soap except for those highly specialized medicinal ones.

I inherited Ever from Boy Feliciano. Boy was a promising manager who was recently assigned to handle Breeze detergent one of the premier brands in PRC. Later on he would become the head of the big international courier service company, DHL, for the Philippine operations. Ever had a reasonable share of 11% of the toilet soaps market. Its platform was that of a perfumed soap. Among its users it had the image of being young and with an attractive scent and was used by university coeds but not of colegialas. On the negative side its image among the toilet soap users was that of having a strong scent, the kind of scent preferred by the “bellas” or the taxi dancers and hostesses of nightclubs. Ever could have been successfully restaged. An 11 % market share was a good enough franchise level to build on. The decision to let the international brands play the role of staving off the P&G onslaught meant concentrating the support budgets on the international brands Lux and Lifefuoy and this was to the detriment of Ever.

Seated: Gat Maggay  Back: Barry Mason, Ed R,Tony Tol, Yener Tugay, angie Lacson,Freddie Lozano, Tony Lorenzana

I took over an ongoing promotion involving coupon redemption. Printed at the backside of the box wrapper was a coupon with a ten-centavo value. I was told by Boy Feliciano, that the promo redemption was recently launched and was well on its way to becoming a successful one. The redemption rate was steadily increasing and this was mostly in the national capital region, a heavily populated area with the highest disposable income. Despite the success of the promotion I wondered why this was not being reflected in the sales results. The more experienced guys in brand told me that there is usually a time lag of about two to three weeks since distribution took that long to get completed. I could not buy that explanation because these were in specially printed packs and a redeemed pack should correspond to a bought and used soap. I initiated an investigation. A close examination of the redeemed packs revealed fake coupons and further probing unmasked one of the sales managers as a collaborator of the perpetrator of the scam. Before we could stop the fraud the redemption rate stood at 80%, an ignominious record of sorts.

Ed Roa,Meckoy Quiogue, Willy Ocampo, Frankie Gonzales

Despite Ever’s limited funds I was able to mount a promotion that was tied up with Max Factor. Apart from being a schematic effort the Ever Beauty Box Bingo was also intended to help upgrade its image by association with Max Factor an upmarket name in cosmetics. The reason I was able to get my Marketing Manager to approve the promotions proposal was it did not commit the brand to a fixed expense because the deal with Max Factor was that payment will only be made on the actual redemption of their products. The promotion was a flop. From the start it was saddled by trade resistance. Despite the accompanying trade incentives some of the big wholesalers were reluctant to stock up on the promoted brand because they still had high inventories of the regular packs in their bodegas. Besides, the dealers felt that there wasn’t enough media support behind the promo launch. The brand had slid to a low level that even a strong temporary added value like Max Factor products could not win over new triers or bring back the users who have abandoned the brand.

Every month we had a sales cycle meeting wherein each brand manager was allowed to talk about the immediate initiatives of the brand to the sales managers. Ever was seldom highlighted because it could only afford a few promotional activities. The Beauty Box Bingo promotion didn’t have enough media money supporting it. Our General Sales Manager Coke del Villar, a grizzled veteran of the sales wars against P&G and Colgate, likened my brand’s effort to that of Admiral Montojo’s cannons in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish American War. The guns were big, well aimed and made loud booming sounds but the cannon balls ended up as splashes in front of Admiral Dewey’s battleships for the lack of gun powder. The best-laid plans end up as splashes in the watery vastness without financial fodder to propel them.

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