By  on August 22, 2008

Doing your laundry isn’t exactly fashionable.

But, in an unusual collaboration, Procter & Gamble Co. has hooked up with Ann Taylor Loft to promote the new Tide and Downy Total Care lines.

Fashion retailers seek to appeal to the lifestyle activities of their customers, but doing the laundry isn’t generally one of them. “This is unprecedented. We’ve never teamed detergent with fashion,” said Kash Shaikh, influencer marketing manager at P&G, who leads the consumer product giant’s external partnerships, endorsements and strategy for all fabric care products.

P&G and Loft believe that washing clothes, rather than spending more on dry cleaning, and preserving the life of clothes to avoid replacing them as often, are powerful messages, particularly in recessionary times. “The average American woman spends $1,500 a year on dry cleaning, but a significant amount of that is spent on clothes that could be washed,” Shaikh said.

The campaign message centers on telling women that two-thirds of the items in the Loft collection are washable, and that Total Care Tide and Total Care Downy help the clothes hold up. According to P&G, Total Care has a “protective fiber complex” that reduces fiber abrasion and neutralizes chlorine in wash water to help maintain the color, shape and texture of clothes. P&G dipped into the silicone technology of its beauty care brands, specifically the Pantene hair care line, to create Total Care. “We’ve been working on this formulation for over five years,” Shaikh said. “We found that hair follicles are similar to fibers in your clothing.”

According to P&G, Tide is a $3.5 billion brand, owns a 40 percent market share and is in 40 million homes. The $1 billion Downy fabric softener is also a market leader, found in 30 million homes. The Total Care line is an extension of the core brands.

“Total Care is the biggest launch in the history of fabric care at P&G,” Shaikh said, noting that $60 million alone is being spent on marketing and advertising on TV, in print, online and for special events. About 10 to 15 percent of the marketing spend is earmarked for the Loft partnership.

Ads showing the cobranding of Loft with Tide and Downy Total Care will be in October, November and December issues of Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Vogue, Elle, In Style, People, Good Housekeeping and Martha Stewart Living, to name a few. “We’ll be in a slew of beauty books, in books that Tide and Downy have customarily never been in before. As we try to elevate fabric care to fashion care, we think it’s very relevant to the readership of these fashion beauty magazines,” Shaikh said.

The product has started to be sold and will be available nationally by the end of this month. The Loft partnership kicks off Sept. 9 in almost all of the 500 units operated by the chain.

Asked why P&G chose Loft for the campaign, Shaikh replied: “It always starts with our consumer. We researched where they are buying their clothes….Ann Taylor Loft was consistently at the top of their list, for value and fashion.” P&G surveyed 1,400 women across the country and different demographics, 25 to 60 years old, Shaikh said.

The washability factor was critical, too, with Loft stating that a much higher percentage of its collection is washable compared with the competition, such as Talbots.

Shaikh also said the $1 billion, 500-unit Loft was big enough to provide a stage for the campaign.

The Loft stores will be distributing sample sachets of the two products as gifts-with-purchase, and a cobranded eight-page Loft magazine with products, styling tips and fashion trends. In addition, the Total Care logo will be on hanger tags and mirror decals at Loft.

So as not to look like Loft is turning into a convenience store, “Total Care will be woven into the Loft environment in an elegant manner. We don’t want to slap consumers in the face with it,” Shaikh noted. “Senior merchants in marketing, merchandising, strategy, visual, corporate communications and store and online channels have all been actively involved in bringing this to life,” said Diane Holtz, executive vice president of Loft.

The P&G-Loft exclusive collaboration is set through the end of the year, with the possibility of an extension. It’s also possible that P&G will involve other retailers next year.

Loft also will be holding Total Care events in different locations, starting with the Times Square flagship in Manhattan, which will feature celebrity stylist Jorge Ramon, who has been recruited for the campaign. “We are committed to moving outside the laundry room and into the life of our target customer. It’s a whole different vocabulary and voice we are bringing to Tide and Downy,” Shaikh said.

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