Colgate Palmolive

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Case 3.3

Colgate-Palmolive: Cleopatra in Quebec?
Johansson – Pages 325 to 334

The Canadian launch extravaganza in February 1986 began with cocktails served by hostesses dressed like Cleopatra, the queen of ancient Egypt. Then followed a gala dinner with a dramatic, multimedia presentation of the new brand, ending with the award-winning commercial and these words:

Today the memory comes alive,
a new shape rises up, a new texture,
a new standard of beauty care
worthy of the name it bears,
Today the memory frozen in ancient stones comes
alive…
Cleopatra.

Each of the retailer guests had received an exclusive, golden, three dimensional pyramid invitation to the launch, and expectations were high. The retailers were sick of discounted brands, all basically the same, and looking for something different and exciting. Finally, the new soap Cleopatra was revealed to the audience of nearly 1,000 – a huge turnout by Canadian standards – and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

So enthusiastic was the audience, that by the end of the evening the Colgate-Palmolive salespeople had received orders for 2,000 cases. Bill Graham, the divisional vice president of marketing for Canada, and Steve Boyd, group product manager, agreed that the night had been a grand success and that Cleopatra’s future looked very rosy.

THE FRENCH EXPERIENCE WITH CLEOPATRA

Cleopatra soap was first introduced in France in November 1984. By May of the following year, the brand had reached an amazing market share of 10%, despite its 23% price premium compared with other brands. In fact, Colgate-Palmolive’s biggest problem was keeping up with demand. By the end of 1985, market share shot up to 15%. Cleopatra had actually become the number one brand in France. Cleopatra’s success in France received a great deal of publicity within the organization. Encouraged by the experience, the Global Marketing Group, situated in New York, set out to find other markets for the product. They reasoned that if Cleopatra had worked well in France, it should do likewise elsewhere in the world. Canada, especially French-speaking Quebec, seemed like an obvious choice to the Global Marketing Group. At the annual update meeting in New York, the group strongly recommended to the Canadian management that a test be done in Canada to see if Cleopatra was a proposition for them.

THE REACTION OF THE CANADIAN SUBSIDIARIES TO CLEOPATRA

The idea of a market test for Cleopatra was greeted with mixed feelings by the Canadians. Some managers, such as Stan House, assistant product manager, were enthusiastic, especially because they knew that Steve Boyd, group product manager for Canada, was convinced it would work. In Boyd’s opinion, Canada could show the people in New York that the same formula would do as well or even better than in France.

Other managers, like Ken Johnson, were more sceptical. They resented having a brand thrust on them. Johnson believed that what Canada really needed was a strong “national” brand, and he doubted that Cleopatra could ever be that.

Nonetheless, a decision was made to proceed and test the Canadian market. One fundamental question had to be answered: Was there reasonable certainty that Cleopatra would be accepted by consumers in Quebec? Two types of research, both conducted in Toronto, tried to answer that question. The first study was among a “super group” of articulate professional women, specially chosen and brought together for the event. They were introduced to the product, its price, and the advertising, then they were asked to discuss their likes and dislikes openly. On balance, the results were positive; the women seemed to like the soap and the concept.

The second research study used more typical consumers; these people were exposed to the proposed advertising for Cleopatra and then were asked whether they would buy it. Fifty percent said they would. They were also given a bar of soap...
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