The campaign’s website walks the consumer through the donation process and demonstrates Dawn’s commitment to saving wildlife. There is educational information, some of it surprising: “Dawn dishwashing liquid has been a vital tool to wildlife conservation organizations, with thousands of donated bottles cleansing – and saving – over 75,000 animals in the last 30 years.”
The website includes a lengthy page of wildlife organization partners, and the opportunity to participate in Dawn’s “Everyday Wildlife Champions” Facebook page. Actress Minnie Driver is the campaign spokesperson. The promotion comes full circle with “Special Edition Dawn,” featuring three labels, each with a different photo of wildlife.
While the current campaign brings renewed relevance to an aging product (Dawn came to market in 1973), it may never have happened were it not for a charity’s persistence. The International Bird Rescue Research Center first discovered that Dawn worked on birds caught in oil spills in 1978. But Dawn’s maker, Procter & Gamble, “ignored requests to donate cases of the product, then finally agreed to do so in 1988,” says The New York Times (“Tough on Crude Oil, Soft on Ducklings,” Sept. 24, 2009).
Still, it was the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 that propelled Dawn to the forefront of wildlife conservation. Parent company Procter & Gamble has been active ever since. “Dawn has highlighted wildlife in advertising campaigns intermittently since 2002 but never tried so actively to engage consumers [as with this campaign],” says The Times.
Campaign aside, Dawn is a classic case of Procter & Gamble’s prowess in brand extension. The world’s largest brand marketer, Procter & Gamble began as a family-owned soap and candle company in 1837. Today it markets such well-known brands as Tide (laundry detergent), Crest (toothpaste), and Charmin (toilet tissue).
Procter & Gamble’s brand portfolio typically features an anchor brand with numerous variations added over time to grow the brand into a family of products. Tide, for example, started as a laundry detergent in 1943 and is now a multi-faceted group of products including powders, liquids, stain release boosters, “Tide To Go” pens, and even accessories with the Tide name, such as lint rollers. The rationale is that the consumer who trusts a brand name will buy additional branded products, even paying a premium price for them.
In similar fashion, today’s Dawn is more – much more – than a simple dishwashing liquid. Now there is:
• Dawn Direct Foam, a pump that “turns the liquid into powerful foam”
• Dawn Simple Pleasures, a dishwashing liquid bottle with built-in air freshener
• An entire line of Dawn PLUS products that have added cleaning agents, such as bleach alternative
• Ultra Dawn, a concentrated version of the product
• Dawn Pure Essentials, dishwashing liquid without dye or extra ingredients
• Dawn Botanicals with blended scents
• Dawn Power Dissolver for “the toughest greasy food soils.”
Dawn is the dishwashing liquid market leader, with over 35 percent market share, according to Information Resources. For years, though, Dawn has been in a horse race with second place Palmolive, the dishwashing liquid made by rival Colgate-Palmolive. Palmolive has followed suit with similar brand extensions of its own (Palmolive Antibacterial Soap, Palmolive Dry Skin with Aloe, Palmolive Oxy Plus). That’s why Procter & Gamble continues to innovate with Dawn.
Dawn and Palmolive both may have seen sales slip during the recent economic downturn. To save money, consumers may have turned to less expensive store brands for commodity items such as soaps and dishwashing liquids.
This could be another good reason for the timing of Dawn’s eco-friendly approach. The notion that Dawn helps save the lives of animals just might make a fickle consumer remain loyal to the brand.