Will Tide wipeout?

July 29, 2005

            After reading my post about the 14 different flavors of Coca-Cola, Kevin Delaney was kind enough to send me a list of the different varieties of Tide detergent he found at his local Target store. Would you believe, there were 32 varieties on sale. Here’s the list.

·        Tide – Liquid

·        Tide – Powder

·        Tide Coldwater – Fresh Scent – Liquid

·        Tide Coldwater – Fresh Scent – Powder

·        Tide Coldwater – Glacier Scent – Liquid

·        Tide Coldwater – Glacier Scent – Powder

·        Tide Clean Breeze – Liquid

·        Tide Clean Breeze – Powder

·        Tide Free – Liquid

·        Tide Free – Powder

·        Tide High Efficiency – Liquid

·        Tide High Efficiency – Powder

·        Tide High Efficiency – Clean Breeze – Liquid

·        Tide Mountain Spring – Liquid

·        Tide Mountain Spring – Powder

·        Tide Tropical Clean – Liquid Tide

·        Tropical Clean – Powder

·        Tide with Bleach – Powder

·        Tide with Bleach – Mountain Spring – Powder

·        Tide with Bleach – Clean Breeze – Powder

·        Tide with Bleach Alternative – Liquid

·        Tide with Bleach Alternative – Mountain Spring – Liquid

·        Tide with Bleach Alternative – Clean Breeze – Liquid

·        Tide with a Touch of Downy – April Fresh – Liquid

·        Tide with a Touch of Downy – April Fresh – Powder

·        Tide with a Touch of Downy – Clean Breeze – Liquid

·        Tide with a Touch of Downy – Clean Breeze – Powder

·        Tide with a Touch of Downy – Soft Ocean Mist – Liquid

·        Tide with a Touch of Downy – Soft Ocean Mist – Powder

·        Tide with Febreze – Meadows & Rain – Liquid

·        Tide with Febreze – Spring & Renewal – Liquid

·        Tide with Febreze – Spring & Renewal – Powder

            Choice is one thing. But who benefits when a manufacturer offers so many different choices that consumers are totally confused?

            Certainly not the consumer. Who are make a rational choice of laundry detergent from a list of 32 different varieties?

            Certainly not the manufacturer who has to produce, stock and delivery the 32 different varieties.

            I don’t think you can find a marketing person who would agree with Procter & Gamble’s strategy . . . in detergent or toothpaste. (Crest is available in an equally ridiculous list of varieties.)

            And yet when you look at the market share of Tide detergent, you find that Tide dominates its category with a 41.3 percent market share, more than four times as much as the No. 2 brand.

            As a matter of fact, there is no No. 2 brand. It’s not like Coke and Pepsi. In laundry detergents, there are a host of brands that trailing so far behind Tide that no one deserves to be recognized as a true No. 2 brand.

            It’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs all over again. Gain, All, Purex, Cheer, Arm & Hammer, Etra and Wisk are the detergent dwarfs with no one brand having more than 9 percent of the market.

            In detergents, in cola, in toothpaste and in any other categories, it’s become a battle to capture shelf space rather than a battle to capture the consumer mind. The consumer can’t buy what’s not on the shelf. So the leading brands in many categories launch line extensions to push competitive brands off the shelf, or in some cases to locations where consumers can’t find them.

            Terrific in the short term, but dangerous in the long term. What’s a Tide? I don’t know and I’m sure most consumers don’t know either. All they know is that Tide is the brand that’s all over the shelf “so it must be good.”

            That sets up Tide for a competitive attack by a single brand that can stand for something in the mind. And don’t think it can’t happen.

            Take Hoover, the leading vacuum cleaner for as long as I can remember. What’s a Hoover?

            Well a Hoover comes in six different types: uprights, deep cleaners, hard-floor cleaners, canisters, specialty vacuums and central vacuum systems. But that’s not all.

Hoover uprights, for example, come in 14 different varieties.

·        Hoover Bagged Tempo Widepath.

·        Hoover Bagged WindTunnel.

·        Hoover Self-Propelled WindTunnel.

·        Hoover Ultra Upright.

·        Hoover Tempo Widepath.

·        Hoover Tempo Upright.

·        Hoover Bagless Tempo Widepath.

·        Hoover Fold Away Widepath.

·        Hoover Fold Away.

·        Hoover Fusion Cyclonic Bagless Upright.

·        Hoover EmPower.

·        Hoover Savvy.

·        Hoover Self-Propelled WindTunnel Bagless.

·        Hoover WindTunnel Bagless Upright.

            You know what happened next. Dyson came into the market with a limited line and one single, powerful positioning idea. “The first vacuum cleaner that doesn’t lose suction.”

            Two years after its introduction, Dyson became the number one vacuum cleaner brand with 21 percent of the market (compared to Hoover’s 16 percent.)

            Could that happen to Tide? Sure. Years ago, Tide had a single powerful positioning idea. “Tide’s in. Dirt’s out.”

            In the future, the theme might become “Tide’s in. Tide’s out.”