Case Study

How a Consumer Goods Company Saved a Fading Brand Through Ingenuity and Collaboration

Situation: A leading brand, Snuggle Fabric Softener, had suddenly dropped in market share. None of the typical market research methods revealed the cause. Joe Tallarico, a seasoned marketer, sales leader and known corporate trouble shooter was called in to take over the brand and see if he could get it back to break even. If not, it would make no sense for Unilever (the parent company) to continue manufacturing and selling the product.

The Catch: While Joe had the mission to bring Snuggle back to life, the usual marketing and promotional dollars, including money for more market research and for staff, had been cut drastically. The rationale was not to throw money onto a dying brand, especially when initial research failed to reveal insights that could help.

Innovative Actions:

1) Frame the Question and Search the Network of Resources You DO have for and Answer. First Joe defined the problem as identifying the cause of Snuggle’s decline. He assumed consumers knew something the company was not catching.  With no marketing research budget, he recruited his neighbors to use Snuggle for a couple weeks and then come over to his house for a pizza party and report their findings. They reported that when they immediately moved their clothes from the washer to the dryer, everything was fine. However, if they left their clothes in the washing machine for a while, before moving them to be dried, they came out of the dryer smelling like a “dirty, wet dog”. This gave Joe the clue to follow-up with R&D and Supply Chain, to see if the formula had been altered.  Sure enough, the formula had been changed, to save money. But before the change went into effect, the new formula had been tested scientifically, and shown to cause no difference in the smell.  However, the experiment assumed people moved their clothes immediately from the washer to the dryer. When they did, great.  When they did not, the “dirty, wet dog” phenomenon occurred.

2) Weave the Turnaround Project into Current Practices and Best Interests of the Business. Joe collaborated with R&D and Supply Chain to restore the original formula by sharing his neighbor’s stories and discussing the trade-off of cost savings to drastic revenue and brand reputation drop. Joe then had to get Sales and their customers (e.g., big retailers like Walmart) to give Snuggle another chance and promote it big time. Having no extra promotional dollars to spend, Joe used his former experience in Sales, knowledge and trusted relationships to get Sales to use “trade dollars” (incentives for customers to promote products) to promote Snuggle.  But this was not enough, Joe knew advertising needed to come back featuring the star of the brand, Snuggle Bear.

3) Weave and Innovate Current Practices While Staying True to the Simple Rules of the Business. As Sales climbed back up to break even, Joe negotiated with the CFO to use revenue above break even to fund a new version of trade dollars that brought Unilever and its customers together for regional and national advertising, featuring Snuggle Bear.  The CFO agreed, as did Sales and Customers.  All of them knew the growth power of advertising with the beloved brand icon.

4) Let Snuggle Bear Embody the Brand, with an Added Twist. A subtle message needed to be sent that Snuggle Bear was back and better than ever. So, Joe asked the advertisers to add a piece where the Bear and children talked to each other. It was a huge hit!

Growth & Value: Snuggle Fabric Softener restored its market share, and resultant revenue. R&D and Supply Chain grew wiser about product testing. Sales and their customers had a new win-win method of collaborating to promote products.

Mini-Lessons: Joe calls this method of getting out of tight places (tight budgets, tight timelines, tight staffing) MacGyvering. MacGyver is the featured character on two television series who cleverly uses the tools and scraps of information around him to generate creative, breakthrough solutions. While it is nice and often assumed you need a big budget, a big staff, and direct blessings from the CEO and CFO to innovate, Joe and the Snuggle Bear story shows that you can put creative pragmatism to work, even when you don’t have those things, and get amazing results.