P&G and the Incontinence Category: Plans Now Revealed: Updated August 9

P&G formally announced the first phase of its global introduction of its Always brand into the incontinence category in the U.K., North America, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  I initially reported this in April 2014.

40% thinner and can absorb more than 2 times what is typically needed
Procter & Gamble (ticker #PG) is re-entering the disposable incontinence category, a category they helped create in 1978 along with Kimberly-Clark (Depend and Poise).  Their brand was Attends.  Today it is Always Discreet.  The product was  introduced in the U.K. in July 2014 and will start shipping into North America in August; France, Belgium and the Netherlands will ship in September.

By P&G's own admission, incontinence is an attractive $7 billion global category growing 7% annually.  The U.S. market is $1.7 billion with Western Europe at $1.6 billion and Asia at $2.4 billion.  These regions represent 80 percent of the global market and have been growing 5 to 9 percent the past few years.  Looking ahead, growth in North America and Western Europe is forecast at 7% with 9% in Asia - at least over the next few years. Compared baby diapers, feminine care products and tissue, incontinence is the fastest growing. 

Their product is touted as having a litany of features and benefits including...
  • Being consumer preferred and trusted due to the Always branding
  • Offering a significant consumer benefit driven by its superior performance characteristics
  • Being 40 percent thinner than the leading brands
  • Absorbing two times more than a woman may need
  • Being the only product with unique dual leak guards
  • Having patterns on the cover to appear more feminine and less clinical
  • Absorbing leaks and odors in seconds
  • Having patent protection relating to how varying needs are met and its unique construction
P&G will be leveraging its know-how from Always panty liners and Pampers diapers to make a smaller, more comfortable but more absorbent line of liners, pads and underwear.

However, others who have seen the product did not see an obvious point of difference or consumer benefit - it lacked a WOW factor.  Product is currently being bench tested to better understand the new Always performance characteristics.  
 

Standardize, Simplify and Synchronize

 
P&G Following Reuben Marks Colgate Strategy.  Go to 9:25 on the video

This introduction will occur as P&G rolls out their new standardize, simplify and synchronize strategy to better focus on big brands with a point of difference, big customers, new channels and new marketing (i.e. digital).  This is the classic Reuben Mark strategy.  He moved Colgate out of the detergent category they had been in since the early days of the company in order to better focus resources and drive shareholder returns.  It worked very well. 

P&G's First Attempt In The Incontinence Category
On April 3, 1998, P&G threw in the towel on their Attends incontinence line in the North America to focus on its ‘bigger brands’ according to Scott Betts, the then general manager of P&G’s U.S. Adult Incontinence business. This decision was made after a failed attempt to relaunch the Attends brand.  The amount they invested in  marketing during the relaunch year was actually more than their sales.  After that, they sold the brand.  Domtar, the current owner has been able to keep the business going, albeit as a price brand with no real marketing support.

The current effort is being led by Steve Bishop, group president of P&G's global feminine and family units.  He wants to build a billion dollar brand and claims that P&G has the right to this based on their proposition and what consumers are telling them.


10,000 Boomers Turn 65 Everyday.  For The Next 20 Years.
P&G can't ignore the incontinence category.  They know how to make products that absorb (Pampers, Always) and they have a very strong (global) sales and marketing team.  What other category can they enter with such strong growth metrics over the next 20 years that leverages their core strengths?

While the baby diaper category is nearly 3 1/2 times larger than adult incontinence products, the long term trends are certainly in favor of incontinence products which have grown 20% since 2009 while baby diapers have declined 8%.

Adult incontinence offers 20 years of significant growth

Most in the incontinence business have been asking:  "What took them so long?"
The big dilemma for the current manufacturers is that P&G usually doesn't introduce me-too products and they aren't going to settle for a small share.  They are now shipping with a full line of 24 items (liners, pads and pull on underwear for women in different pack counts).  While they'd like market share leadership, I expect they will target at least 25% of the market.  Ali Didaj estimates that if P&G could obtain 11 percent, Always Discreet could be a $575 million brand in a few years.  

"In The Next Six Months, We're Entering a New Category"
In a June 18, 2014 presentation at the Duetsche Bank Global Consumer Conference, P&G CFO Jon Moeller said that in the next six months P&G will be entering a new category.  He didn't divulge the category but also eluded to the fact that they will introduce a new and far superior method of addressing a chronic consumer issue.  Here is a link to his presentation - see slide 14.

As predicted, P&G  announced their re-entry into incontinence during their earnings call on August 1, 2014.

Branding Under Always Umbrella
The brand name is Always Discreet.  The use of Always branding precludes marketing the line to men, but we think its smart.  Women represent about 86 percent of the market and the Always and Tampax brands are a $5 billion business for P&G.  Always branding is a strength for P&G.  The feminine care section is where women want to shop (if they shop in a store, that is).  Being in the feminine care isle helps address the discretion issue.  However, we believe P&G has recommended placement in the existing incontinence section.

According to consumer research, 40% of Always maxi pad volume is already being used for light bladder leakage so the transition to a targeted product (Always Discreet) will be easier for a woman using a period only pad.

For years, Poise advertising has promoted the notion of ‘1 in 3 like me’ referring to the fact that one out of three women older than 18 have recurring bladder issues.  P&G believes women don’t like current products (i.e. Poise, TENA, store brand pads) and that’s why only one in nine buy products to address them.  That is the sweet spot P&G is targeting.  P&G claims women want a more feminine and discreet solution and that Always Discreet will bring more normalcy and femininity to the category.  Kimberly-Clark's strategy has been to convince women that Poise is superior to 'period only pads' because they absorb three times more and are 'crazy thin'. 
 
There may be a downside to branding this incontinence line Always.  It is possible that P&G could risk alienating the 15-25 year old target by associating it with incontinence products.  It may serve to tarnish the equity they've built since the mid-1980's as the modern brand in feminine care.  My daughter Nicole, who is a marketing expert in her own right at General Mills made me aware of this potential.

Manufacturing Synergies & Efficiencies
CFO Jon Moeller recently announced a concerted effort in the area of Innovation & Productivity which will be driven by sales growth, margin improvement and asset efficiency.  In turn, these will drive total shareholder returns.  This will be accomplished with fewer, multi-category plants and common manufacturing platforms.  This plays well into manufacturing Always feminine care pads and new Always Discreet in the same plant(s) and perhaps on the same converting equipment.  Baby diapers and pull-on incontinence products share many of the same materials and processes.  Manufacturing talent can be utilized across all the product lines. 

Driving Revenue Growth
This introduction may drive growth in the light end segment as an increasing number of women transition from period only pads to a targeted product.  This will serve to drive more revenue dollars per unit into the incontinence category, at the expense of the feminine care category.  Comparable products targeted for incontinence sell at prices 50% to more than two times the comparable sized feminine care pads.  If P&G is able to trade up current maxi pad customers to new Always Discreet, that will help drive their overall revenue growth.

The Always branding strategy helps solve the issue of identifying shelf space as well, although at least one big box store says that space in the incontinence section is an issue (hence the comment about TENA's ability to hold onto any shelf space in the U.S.).  Inventory requirements for retailers will be steep as P&G is introducing 24 SKU's. Certainly, not all retailers will stock all SKU's.

In the U.K. P&G has been selling Always Discreet pads for 'sensitive bladder' on their super savvy me website. They claim they are up to 40% thinner and can absorb more than two times the average woman's need.  They are encouraging women to "just get on with their lives".  The advertising show women dancing in a range of situations with their friends and "enjoying life to the fullest".  This is a far cry from the breakthrough advertising by Poise.

Other product features include a unique DualLock core, exclusive OdourLock (tm) technology that neutralizes odors instantly and continuously (lots of happy talk).  They are lightly scented, have full length leak guards, are thin and flexible even when wet and fit discreetly.  They come individually wrapped for discreet disposal and have been dermatologically tested.


40% thinner and can absorb more than 2 times what is typically needed
The U.K. is the lead market for Always Discreet and will be followed in August in North America with shipments commencing the week of August 11.  France, Belgium and the Netherlands are follow on markets in the early fall.

Globally, P&G will may market this new line under the brand names of Whisper (Japan, Singapore, India, China, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan; Lines (Australia and Indonesia); Orkid inTurkey and Evax and Ausonia in Spain and Portugal.

Dialoging satisfied customers in the incontinence category can be tricky - they need a strong sales pitch (a highly differentiated positioning with a tangible benefit) and lots of trial incentives. In the U.S. P&G will gain share with a uniquely positioned brand and bombardment level awareness and trial generating advertising and promotion of a reported $150 million, the largest outlay in P&G's history.  They will continue shifting the marketing mix into digital, social and mobile media.  The roll out will occur in phases over a period of time, perhaps up to three years as they introduce their original line up and follow on with other products such as a pessary.  

Pessaries: A New Segment In The Incontinence Category?
Up to 50% of women occasionally leak urine involuntarily, and approximately 25% of women will seek medical advice at some point in order to deal with the problem.  P&G has been filing patents on a new technology - a disposable incontinence pessary.  The product is designed to help stop light bladder control due to stress incontinence.  It is inserted with an applicator like a tampon and its benefit is comfortable insertion and removal.  The patent filing refers to the product being easy and discreet to use, transport and dispose of.  At least one analyst believes pessaries will be the product form P&G leads with, but The CareGiver Partnership feels that they must enter the category with known product forms before introducing a new to the world product style.

Drawing from one P&G filing on a pessary



Who Wins.  Who Loses?
The result?  Its impossible to know if P&G will be able to achieve 25% of the market after the first year or two.  However, if they do, Depend and Poise will lose 10 to 15 share points and most in the industry feel that SCA's TENA and Serenity brands will be all but extinguished in the U.S. as retailers use the TENA and Serenity shelf space for Always Discreet.  Private label and store brands may lose some share temporarily, but P&G's line up will likely be premium priced (to store brands) and not attract those who primarily purchase on price.  Further, over the past quarter century, the share of private label just hasn't changed much in either good and bad economic times.

More Deals and Lower Prices For Consumers... At Least For a While
For customers of The CareGiver Partnership, this may be good news with more competition resulting in more incentives and lower prices, at least initially.

Unfortunately... More Consumer Confusion
A major issue with incontinence products is consumer confusion.  Research shows that new category entrants waste on average $130 in trial and error mode trying to find the right product for their needs. That means that 8 to 10 bags of product are purchased before the best option is identified.  This is caused by a lack of standardized naming nomenclature for product styles and absorbencies.  The incontinence category is a clear example of the Paradox of Choice.

That's why The CareGiver Partnership created the Incontinence Product Finder, a free tool to help simplify the decision process for consumers.  With it, a consumer can sort through over 650 incontinence products in under a minute and pinpoint the ones that will best meet their needs.  Or, they can call 1-800-985-1353 and talk to a knowledgeable product specialist who all happen to be women.  They can also take advantage of our Try Before You Buy Sample Service.

Further Reading
Kimberly--Clark's Poise Fires First Shot at P&G's Always Discreet 
Pessaries.  P&G's Next Incontinence Frontier



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Having competed against P&G since 1974 across a wide range of categories including detergents, cleansers/cleaners, bar soap, dish liquid, baby diapers, adult diapers, and feminine care at both Colgate-Palmolive and Kimberly-Clark,  the re-introduction back into the rapidly expanding incontinence category as been highly anticipated. 

By Tom Wilson, Co-Founder and President of The CareGiver Partnership.  You can reach me at tomw@caregiverpartnership.com or at 920-886-8162.

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