Dawn Promotes Dish Washing “Revolution”

Everyone loves holiday meals, but nobody likes cleaning up afterward. For those of us who dread after-dinner dishes, Procter & Gamble has a timely consumer PR message: You’re not imagining things. Your “old” detergent isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Both the timing and the content of the message offer an interesting window into effective, cleverly passive, consumer PR. Speaking about its Dawn brand dishwashing liquid, which debuted back in 1972, P&G says modern cooks aren’t washing dishes like people used to, and that means their dish soap isn’t working as it’s meant to.

Here’s their reasoning: Most of today’s consumers wash dishes during lulls in cooking, one or two at a time, rather than piling them all in the sink for one final wash when the cooking (and eating) are done. It’s the latter, not the former, that P&G says Dawn was designed to handle. Speaking to the media, Morgan Brashear, a senior scientist at P&G, said: “People are more time-starved, and they see clean as you go as a life hack. The product they’re using isn’t keeping up.”

Brashear says this scenario led to several years of research by P&G scientists, resulting in a new and improved product, Dawn Powerwash Dish Spray. According to marketing literature, the new spray product doesn’t require water to activate cleaning suds. While the new product has a higher cost than traditional dish soap, P&G is hoping effective consumer PR and targeted marketing will help convince people it’s worth the price.

A P&G rep called the product launch a “revolution in the category.” They follow this assertion with advertising messaging that hits right to the core of what people hate about washing dishes – all the time-wasting soaking followed by scrubbing to get caked on food off.

The timing of this messaging is a passive, but effective, key to the PR campaign. Coming between two of the biggest family feast days of the year – Thanksgiving and Christmas – when people are thinking about the frustrations of cleaning all those dirty dishes. Connecting with that emotional trigger allows P&G to sink their message in deeper with consumers, bypassing some of the natural objection to paying more for the product.

While the numbers are not out, it’s likely P&G sold a good many new Dawn Powerwash spray bottles to people out and about doing their regular holiday meal prep shopping. The psychology is as simple as it is effective: you’re already splurging on food you would not normally buy, as well as other things you need for the best ever holiday meal. A couple extra bucks on a spray bottle is no big deal, especially if it means getting the dishes done faster when all your family and friends are over.

Thinking about this product launch from that perspective is a reminder about the power of timing and targeted messaging in conjunction with new product PR.

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