Last week, we saw a glimmer of hope that the promise of “retail strategy” may at long last rising above the level of a cruel contradiction in terms. I’m talking about the new strategic alliance between Procter & Gamble and Ann Taylor.
If you haven’t heard about it, Procter & Gamble is collaborating with Ann Taylor to launch new versions of its Tide and Downy brands. What’s striking about this is that P&G is choosing to launch a new brand through collaboration with a retail channel that does not sell its product. Rather, it is collaborating with a retailer that helps reinforce its message and build its image.
As reported in the New York Times, Ann Taylor chief marketing officer Robert Luzzi acknowledges that the alliance between a detergent and a fashion brand is “not typical” but uses the “R” word to explain the thinking, saying, ” … We decided that the partnership at this time was incredibly relevant for our clients in this pretty tough economy … we want to deliver value for our clients.”
P&G’s Kash Shaikh agrees, noting, “Women spend $1,500 a year on dry cleaning and 65 percent of those clothes are actually machine washable.” The P&G promise is that its new Tide Total Care and Downy Total Care products will “cut down on dry cleaning bills by helping clothes look new for a longer time.”
Specifically, the P&G claim is that the new products “keep clothes looking new for up to 30 washes.” The company reportedly spent “years of research into “preserving the shape and color of clothes after repeated washes.”
Ann Taylor Loft will offer “free samples and coupons to customers who buy machine washable clothes.” Stores will also have posters and “an eight-page magazine” offering “tips on how to keep clothes looking fresh (hint: they require Tide or Downy Total Care.”
This is a promising development indeed. For almost 20 years now, we’ve chattered about the potential for retailers and brands to work together on a strategic basis as marketers. We’ve called the idea co-marketing, collaborative marketing and most recently shopper marketing.
Usually the talk quickly devolves into some tactical shadow of the original idea. We play checkers when the marketplace is crying out for chess.
This may not be “checkmate” for Procter & Gamble, but it certainly is a smart move.