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Swiffer gets in “touch”

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This book excerpt is from “Loveworks” by Brian Sheehan, published by powerHouse Books. Sheehan is associate professor of advertising at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University. He was with Saatchi & Saatchi for 25 years, with CEO roles at Team One Advertising in Los Angeles and at Saatchi & Saatchi Australia and Japan. “Loveworks” follows Sheehan’s books “Basics: Online Marketing” (2010) and “Basics: Marketing Management” (2011). He has been published in Advertising Age, the Journal of Advertising Research, and in several peer-reviewed books and journals.  For more information, please visit

In 1999, Procter & Gamble (P&G) created a new category — the “Quick Clean” category — with Swiffer. The Swiffer Sweeper offered an alternative to traditional mops for wet floor cleaning, brooms for dry floor cleaning, and feather dusters for dusting. Swiffer became a big success.

Over 10 years, it grew to annual sales over half a billion dollars. Swiffer’s legion of fans loved the ease and the effectiveness of the product. But by 2011, sales were beginning to stagnate, in large part because it was increasingly hard to convince consumers who had not already adopted Swiffer.

The underlying problem was that many consumers found it hard to understand how the product — which came in a small rectangular box on the shelf and required assembly — could do the same thing as their trusty mops, brooms, and dusters, only better.

The key to success was to understand the power of a Lovemarks principle: sensuality, more specifically the sense of touch. Of all the senses associated with love and loyalty beyond reason, being able to touch and be touched can evoke some of the strongest emotions. Shoppers want to be able to touch the product they are going to buy, especially when it relates to taking care of their family and cleaning their home. The box packaging prevented many shoppers from making a tactile and emotional connection to Swiffer. They couldn’t really imagine how it would work. This was the product’s biggest barrier to new trial.

Saatchi & Saatchi X in Springdale, Arkansas, handles P&G’s shopper marketing program with America’s largest retailer, Walmart. Together, the three companies worked to find a solution. They were a potent combination. Over the past few years, some of the most innovative and inspiring work in shopper marketing has resulted when these three put their heads together.

What they came up with for Swiffer was an “out of the box” solution. In other words, they planned on making the product available in its final assembled form instead of a small box.

But it wasn’t going to be easy. Shipping the product as a preassembled stick was much more difficult. And displaying the product would take a complete redesign of the retail aisle.

P&G solved the packaging and shipping issues. Saatchi X solved the display issues and put together an engaging multimedia communications plan. Walmart prepared to execute it in-store. By 2011, after testing each aspect of this new approach, Swiffer was ready to get in touch with a whole new group of potential users in a big way.

The product was now available in an aisle that had been completely redesigned around Swiffer’s new preassembled sticks, and colorcoded to differentiate Swiffer’s varied products. The advertising campaign was also a joint effort. Many of the communications carried both Swiffer and Walmart branding. The effort included print ads, circular ads, online banner ads that showed the product bursting out of its pack, and commercials highlighting the new Swiffer section — “redesigned with you in mind” — on Walmart’s in-store TVs.

Swiffer also scored a coup by announcing the redesigned Quick Clean aisle on an episode of the popular daytime talk show, The View. The show was perfectly targeted at Swiffer’s core female target, many of whom watched the show when they were cleaning the house.

To help convert interest into trial, the new packages had overt messaging about Swiffer’s money-back guarantee under the theme “Put Your Money Where Your Mop Is.” According to Doug Van Andel, global creative director at Saatchi X, “Emphasizing the money-back promise, which is standard business practice for both P&G and Walmart, added fuel and significance to the more tactile product and the aisle redesign.” Now there was simply no reason not to try it for the first time!

The new packaging and communications improved the clarity of Swiffer. It made the brand more intuitive. It allowed shoppers to understand which specific Swiffer product they needed, in a split second rather than a minute or two. This helped change shoppers into buyers.

Out of the Box Equals Off of the Shelf

The P&G, Saatchi X, Walmart triumvirate grew the Quick Clean category at Walmart by nearly double the rest of the category growth at other retailers.

Swiffer’s package transformation and the re-invention of the Quick Clean category has become a testament to the power of great shopper marketing. It has been cited by the Wall Street Journal and the campaign won both gold and silver Effie awards for shopper marketing. It is a literal example of thinking outside the box.