CINCINNATI — Procter & Gamble's oldest brand is getting a makeover, kind of.
The Cincinnati-based consumer products company has updated the signature white soap packaging for the 132-year-old Ivory brand with colorful, eye-catching packages, a remade logo and a new marketing campaign. But the soap itself isn't changing, nor is P&G's basic message for it.
"The heritage has always been about purity, and the fact that it does what it says it's going to do," said Kevin Hochman, a P&G marketing director. "It cleans really well."
The remake is part of an effort by the company to breathe new life into Ivory. Its rich heritage hasn't been enough to keep it afloat in the competitive soap market. A report this year by Mintel Group market research estimated that Unilever's Dove brand held 35.3 percent of the market for non-deodorant bar soap. Ivory trailed at 5.8 percent, down slightly from 2009. Ivory also has branded body washes, dish and laundry detergents.
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Robert Passikoff, president of New York-based research firm Brand Keys, said Ivory's strong name recognition can be a strength and a drawback.
"People know that it is a good product; they know it fulfills certain basic requirements; they know it floats," he said. "The bad news is, everyone already knows that."
Hochman said P&G expects the new campaign to remind people why their families used Ivory in the past, and to attract new users with quality for low price. He declined to disclose Ivory sales figures, but he said the brand's performance has improved this year.
"There's never been a better time to relaunch this," he said. "There is so much tailwind at our back: the economic environment, this trend of getting back to things that work, and reminding us of a time when things were a bit simpler."
Through consumer interviews and other research, P&G marketers and their advertising agency decided that they didn't want to mess with Ivory's consistent claim since the 19th century that it's "99.44" pure soap. They also didn't want to stray from its message of quality and price that make it, according to an 1882 ad, "the cheapest soap for everybody and every want."
Instead of Ivory's usual nearly all-white packages, new ones will be more colorful. A simpler logo plays off the previous one of the 1950s and carries the slogan "pure, clean & simple."