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The voice of the brand strategy consultancy, The Portnoy Group Inc.

The Brand Man Speaks is a dialogue about the consuming world in which we live and a guide to successfully navigating it. The goal is to educate people and companies about branding, the most powerful yet misunderstood business tool.

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Tide testing Tide basic; less expensive version of original brand to offset sales loss

P & G, the most well known consumer products company and one of the world's largest, producer of brands like Tide and Crest is facing a major challenge. After strategically going up-market during robust times with many of their brands, the prolonged weakened economy is hurting the bottom line big time.

Tide, a premium priced laundry detergent, has seen some of the biggest declines in sales in anyone's memory. So much so the brand is testing a lower priced Tide called Tide Basic in powder form. The idea? To keep the franchise's market-share and loyal consumers as best as possible without losing too many to other price oriented brands.

The problem? The Tide brand was built on the premise it was a superior performing product, one that was used by grandmothers and passed down to mothers and their daughters. It has had strong emotional loyalty unlike any other laundry detergent brand. However, in this new economy consumer buying behavior is changing dramatically in ways most consumer product companies are not accustomed to. Price is the factor even for affluent consumers and product performance and efficacy seem to be less important. The paradigm shift has not been completed making it even harder to gage what steps are best to keep consumers loyal and which to avoid that might cause damage that cannot be undone when the economy improves. Thus, we are in uncharted territory.

With Tide Basic P & G definitely runs the risk of losing its loyalists who have bought the liquid original brand for years. The lower priced brand that has reduced some of the benefits of the original can both undermine the original more so than has already occurred and, more importantly, question the entire brand premise. If you can buy a cheaper version and it is almost as good why then ever buy the original?

When price becomes the brand purchase driver and all other brand elements are not sustained or emphasized the brand becomes a commodity brand and its competition becomes broader and more dangerous.

Let's see how the test does in various cities and we shall revisit this discussion in a number of months. It may prove to be a noteworthy case-study of how to successfully or not successfully handle the new consuming world we have entered.

Watching out for you everyday.



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Very interested in knowing how the test between Tide and Tide basic does. As Elie mentioned, I believe customer loyalty will play a major role in this study - especially during this downturn economy. Marketers, now more than ever, need to be aware of how effective their customer loyalty and loyalty programs are. If you're interested in sharing how effective your customer loyalty program is, I think you will find this survey very useful:

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