When a company the size of Procter & Gamble divests itself of a brand, it's a given that all of the brand assets go along with it. Rarely if ever is there any kind of agreement to retain control over some of the intellectual property. Rarer still is the notion that the seller will structure the sale in such a way that it can keep one of the brand assest for altruistic purposes.
This is what makes P&G's sale of the PUR brand so unusual. While Helen of Troy Limited announced an agreement to acquire the well-known PUR water purification brand from P&G, along with the deal was the unusual provision that P&G could retain the rights to a powder it developed with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason? So P&G could maintain its philanthropic commitment to the Children's Safe Drinking Program.
The novel arrangement turns out to be a win-win in the classic business sense.
The win for Helen of Troy: The acquisition of PUR puts Helen of Troy into water purification, a nice expansion into a new growing market. PUR leads the market in U.S. faucet mount and refrigerator filters and is a top brand in water pitcher filtration systems. Helen of Troy, while it is dwarfed by P&G's portfolio of brands, is no minor player in the consumer packaged goods space and it gets another strong brand to add to the family.
The company owns Ammens, Braun, Brut, Dr. Scholl's, Pert, Vidal Sassoon, and Vicks, among others. According to Jack Neff at Ad Age, Helen of Troy has been "a serial acquirer of P&G orphan brands, including Pert Plus, Sure and Infusium23." The Braun, Vicks, and Vidal Sassoon brands are licensed from P&G.
The win for P&G: The company unloads a brand that doesn't play to its primary strength, consumables in the health, beauty and household cleaner categories. But P&G retains the high-profile portion of PUR that keeps a halo on the corporate brand, namely, the Children's Safe Drinking Water program. In a brilliant move, P&G gets to rebrand the "Purifier of Water" powder (formerly PUR) used in the program with its own name, inextricably tying the product to the program. This is equivalent to one company's name being promoted every time a flu vaccine is administered anywhere in the world.
The importance of being associated with the Children's Safe Drinking Water program cannot be underestimated, which is why P&G took the unusual step of putting its own brand name on the powder. (Typically, the company is loathe to promote itself and has not had its own name on a product for over 100 years; rather, the names of its individual brands take the spotlight.) With clean water continuing to be a leading issue facing populations around the world, the newly named P&G Purifier of Water will increasingly be used to purify dirty water in a simple, affordable, convenient way. According to the program's website, "P&G has committed to save one life every hour in the developing world by delivering more than 2 billion liters of clean drinking water every year by 2020, helping save an estimated 10,000 lives."
This kind of impact does a lot of good for the world — and it doesn't hurt that it also does a lot of good for P&G's corporate image. In fact, the Children's Safe Drinking Water program is a poster child for what corporate citizenship is all about.