Has Ivory Had Its Day?

by Peter Koeppel on Oct 28, 2014 3:00:00 AM Brand Marketing

Koeppel_Peter_resizedIvory Soap has been a mainstay for Procter and Gamble’s consumer products.

But now as the 135-year-old company has begun to cull its wide brand line the fate of Ivory soap is unclear. In the coming years, P&G will clear out its weakest performing brands to focus on the 70 to 80 that will produce the best results. Although the company hasn’t yet announced which products it will cull, Ivory’s numbers may have it on the chopping block.

Ivory sales declining consistently. In America, sales of Ivory soap have decreased steadily, partly due to the interest in body washes and liquid hand soaps. While Ivory had a 20 percent share of the bar soap market in the 1970s, times have changed. It’s currently around 3.4 percent, down from 4.2 percent 10 years ago. The sales annually are around $112 million, which is significant but only is a fraction of P&G’s total of $83 billion annually.

Three years ago, P&G tried to rejuvenate the brand with new products in the line—including a 2-in-1 body wash, a new logo, and a social media campaign that was focused on moms. However, all of these efforts were for naught. The sales declined at an average annual rate of 4 percent.

What does this mean for Ivory? There still is hope for the brand. The three-bar soap pack tops P&G’s list for the item in the most U.S. households.

In addition, Ivory’s body wash has a higher repeat purchase rate than other products such as Unilever’s Dove and Henkel’s Dial.

Losing Ivory may be a smart financial move, but it would be bittersweet for P&G. The soap first got the conglomerate into the art of branding. Until then, P&G’s candles and soaps were sold under boring names such as “Procter and Gamble’s Brown Soap.”

Analysts surmise that P&G could cut some larger brands, along with smaller ones in order to keep Ivory—but prospects are grim.

Peter Koeppel president of Koeppel Direct, a full-service media buying agency based in Dallas. He can be reached at 972-732-6110 or online at pkoeppel@koeppelinc.com, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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