Era is one of the lower-profile brands in the stable of laundry produced and marketed by Procter & Gamble, arguably the world's most prolific brand factory and marketer. On the value scale, Era is the lowest-price major detergent brand, often competing with private label store brands instead of with its siblings in P&G's Cheer, Gain and Tide brands.
But Era is no less important from a marketing perspective; in fact, P&G cut the brand's price more than a year ago to take advantage of value-hungry consumers who were trading down to less expensive detergents because of the weakened economy. Now, P&G has upped the Era ante with an ad campaign that, at first glance, seems to combine the detergent with an unlikely spokesperson — Chuck Norris.
Sports running on TV and YouTube, and supported by Facebook and Twitter, make the claim that Era is "CHUCK NORRIS APPROVED." The product is shown with what appears to be a stamp of approval, bearing an illustrated likeness of Norris.
Norris, of course, is the legendary tough guy and star of the Walker, Texas Ranger TV series, as well as such movies as The Delta Force, Firewalker, and The Hitman.
Why choose a tough guy like Norris to pitch a pedestrian brand like a laundry detergent? Kim Koster, SVP at Leo Burnett Toronto, the agency that came up with the campaign, told the New York Times that research indicated "our target consumer has a lot of affinity" for Norris. That consumer, for the most part a woman 25 to 54 years old, says Koster, is "fighting to get the job done on a budget." Hence the campaign's theme, "A lot of fight for a little dough.
The commercials themselves play on the Norris image but in a humorous way, inflating the kinds of things Era can do to match the often exaggerated claims about Norris himself. One 15-second ad, for example, shows a Chinese man holding a tea cup that bursts, accompanied by the voiceover: "Era detergent once head-butted a tea stain so hard... a cup of tea on the other side of the world felt it. Era. So much fight it's Chuck Norris Approved."
The campaign is a departure from Era's more pragmatic "tough on stains, easy on your wallet" positioning, but Tara Murphy, Era's brand manager, tells the Times the new ads reinforce Era's core appeal to "consumers who want great stain-fighting at a great price. The Chuck Norris campaign, says Murphy brings "the no-nonsense personality of Era to life through innovative marketing, using light humor to speak to this consumer in a unique way that is unexpected for laundry."
Norris seems to favor the approach. In correspondence via Platinum Rye Entertainment, which arranged for Norris to appear in the Era ads, Norris wrote, "This is the right opportunity for me and the best environment imaginable for launching my seal of approval. He added, "I don't think the humor would work if people didn't understand who I am and that I believe in the characters I portray and the values they are committed to protect."
For its part, P&G is having fun not just with Era, but with some of its other laundry detergent brands. For example, Cheer, which has relied on humor for many years, recently spoofed soap operas with its "Brighten Bay" campaign.
And as AP reports, it's just about to launch a "high-tech upgrade to its Ariel laundry detergent, in a global launch underscoring the Cincinnati-based consumer products maker's increasing focus on emerging markets." To underline the use of 3D technology in creating "micro boosters" to attack laundry stains, P&G plans to use 3D in ots marketing campaign, including "3D movie theater commercials and a 3D fashion show."
P&G is an old hand at creating compelling storylines to sell its products — don't forget, "soap operas" were originally created by P&G as vehicles to advertise its soap and detergent products. Today, it's taking it all to new heights, and it's a whole new Era, when it comes to selling soap suds.