P&G ups loyalty with Mr. Clean car wash

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Mr. Clean may be a well-known national brand, but when Procter & Gamble recently opened its first car wash bearing the Mr. Clean moniker, the company's typical marketing strategy of splashy ads on network TV and in major consumer magazines looked all washed up.

"Unlike our other P&G brands, this is a local focus," said Joe Nichols, assistant brand manager for Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash. Which is why P&G has devised a marketing strategy that includes direct mail, billboards, working with local businesses, radio spots and community good works.

"We want to make sure we improve the communities in which we live," Nichols said.

P&G will consider roling the initiative out nationally, based on the campaign's performance. One of the challenges P&G faces as it introduces the new brand is making sure consumers understand that Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash isn't a product for their cars but an actual facility where they can get their cars cleaned.

One way it is addressing this issue is with location. The car wash is located in a busy part of upscale Deerfield, OH.

"As soon as you drive by, it becomes pretty obvious that it's a car wash," Nichols said.

In fact, P&G, Cincinnati, had to do some convincing with local officials, who didn't want a car wash in that location. A second Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash is scheduled to open in October in Evendale, OH.

Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash also offers a loyalty program that has reportedly signed up 400 members. The program gives members a free car wash after every nine they purchase. In addition, members receive a free wash on their birthdays. At sign up, members are given an opportunity to opt into the loyalty clubs for various other P&G brands and get e-mail offers from P&G.

At this time, the Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash loyalty program does not include any e-mail or direct mail communication. "That is on the horizon," Nichols said.

P&G is also working with local restaurants and retailers to provide incentives to their employees and customers to try the car wash, such as by handing out coupons.

However, once the consumer steps inside, it doesn't look like just any car wash. Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash boasts a waiting area replete with a premium coffee bar that serves P&G's Millstone brand. The area also offers Wi-Fi, flat-screen televisions and a window facing the wash tunnel that has squirt guns children can use to control the nozzles inside and shoot high-pressure water at cars.

"We're getting quite a bit of feedback on the upscale facility," Nichols said.

While P&G insists that the Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash is affordable to a large group of people - prices range from $8.45 for a basic clean to $39 for an express hand wash - it's clear that it's looking to make a mark on the upper end of the car-wash market.

Reaching the soccer moms
Busy soccer moms are the Mr. Clean Performance Wash's primary target audience, according to Susan Baba, who handles external relations for the brand. A full-detail car wash might take a couple of hours at some facilities. At Mr. Clean, however, some services take no more than three minutes while a full-service wash is done in half an hour.

Car enthusiasts are P&G's second target audience. To that end, the car wash offers state-of-the-art technology, the longest wash tunnel in the Midwest (160 feet) and hand -wash options. Some P&G Febreze items are also used during the washing of cars.

Eco-friendly efforts
Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash could attract some environmentally conscious consumers, as it employs a system that recycles 85 percent of the water used in the car wash. The remaining water goes to a neighborhood water treatment facility. This fact is highlighted in a brochure that is available at the car wash and on its Web site at www.mrcleancarwash.com.

Besides location, P&G will be employing a variety of other means to build brand awareness and promote trial of the Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash.

For example, in July, P&G partnered with the Kroger store located next door to its car wash to send out a co-branded direct mail piece to the supermarket's loyalty club members. The 10-inch by 5-inch postcard included a coupon good towards a car wash.

The pace of the marketing around Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash picks up in a couple of weeks to coincide with its official grand opening on August 17. The car wash has been in soft opening mode since June, during which time P&G has been working on getting all the details right.

At the grand opening event, customers will have the chance to meet Mr. Clean himself. Two local radio stations will also be on hand with live remote feeds. The pace of radio spots for the car wash will also pick up before the grand opening event.

Customers will also have a chance to win a free Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash gift card, which is being launched around the same time.

The gift cards will be available in increments of $25, $50 and "choose your own." Consumers will be able to purchase them at the car wash and check their balance online or over the telephone.

P&G will also launch a premium, pre-paid card in August. The clear plastic card will come preloaded with either $100, $200 or $500. An additional percentage - which hasn't been determined yet - will be tacked on by P&G.

P&G also has plans to get Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash involved in fundraising activities for local schools as part of the local outreach in the future.

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