P&G Tests Soap on the Go for Shelf Space

Procter & Gamble Co. is running an in-store and online promotion to generate more display space from retailers for multipacks of its soap brands.

Called Soap on the Go, the promotion offers consumers a dollar-value incentive online for buying three-bar packs of Zest, Olay or Safeguard or four-bar packs of Old Spice or Ivory. SoftCoin Inc., a Brisbane, CA-based online marketing and promotions firm, created the Web element.

"For us, what we're looking for is exploring alternative vehicles that incent our retailers to display our brand -- that's our fundamental priority," said Jeff Myers, brand manager for personal cleansing products at P&G, Cincinnati. "The purpose for us is not about building loyalty with consumers. The purpose for us is to explore this as a vehicle to incent retailers to display us."

P&G commenced specially marked soap-pack shipments last month to coincide with the debut of http://www.soaponthego.com. The Zest, Old Spice, Ivory and Safeguard multipacks are line-priced at an average of $1.90 and Olay at $4.

Each pack comes with a free travel case designed to encase a soap bar as well as a code on an enclosed game piece. Consumers create an account at the site and enter the code to see whether they have received $5 or $10 to spend online.

The amount can be redeemed at three retailers participating in the program: eBags.com, sunglasshut.com and toyopia.com. Each code entered also is an automatic entry into a Soap on the Go sweepstakes for a chance to win $25,000 in March.

"What we want to learn is if there's enough consumers behind a SoftCoin-type execution where, in the future, we can use this as a standalone reason for retailers to choose and support our brands' merchandising," Myers said.

P&G has worked with SoftCoin in the past, but not on these brands. Terms of the P&G deal were not disclosed. SoftCoin clients include Kraft Foods for Easy Mac, Lifestyle condoms, Nestle's Friskies, Dole Food Co. and joint promotions for Frito-Lay and Tropicana, and Boston Market and Coca-Cola.

Despite being a leading player in the toiletries business, P&G constantly has to work on programs to get its brands noticed on store shelves.

The company recently inked a deal with Upromise, a Web site where consumers save toward college expenses by buying specific brands from retailers. Shopping for P&G's Olay, Zest, Old Spice, Cascade and Tide brands from these retailers yields savings of 3 percent.

Still, the key issue is getting shelf space from drugstores, discounters, supermarkets or convenience chains. This is even more the case in the toiletries aisle, where P&G is head-to-head with Lever Bros.

"If you go to stores today, predominantly what you see on display are special packs -- very expensive to execute," Myers said. "So are there less-expensive ways that you can provide incremental consumer value that would incent a retailer to display you? SoftCoin potentially provides that, but the jury's still out."

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