Javex launches `Germ Warfare’

Is it a fabric whitener? Or is it a disinfectant?Canadians are of two minds when it comes to hypo-chlorite bleach, a household product they spend upwards of $100 million on annually in supermarkets, mass merchandisers and club stores.In Quebec, which accounts...

Is it a fabric whitener? Or is it a disinfectant?

Canadians are of two minds when it comes to hypo-chlorite bleach, a household product they spend upwards of $100 million on annually in supermarkets, mass merchandisers and club stores.

In Quebec, which accounts for 45% of total category sales, consumers tend to view bleach as a disinfectant first, and a fabric whitener second.

English-Canadians, on the other hand, are considerably more likely to add bleach to the wash than to use it on their toilet bowel, kitchen counter or cutlery.

This month, Colgate-Palmolive Canada, maker of Javex Bleach, is launching a new ad campaign in consumer magazines intended to bring English-Canadians up to speed on the germ-killing properties of a product found in most homes and renewed, on average, every four to six weeks.

The campaign, created by Foote Cone & Belding Canada, is slated to run to the end of the year, appearing most frequently during the spring and fall.

fcb’s creative, authorative yet friendly in tone, comprises three full-page executions that show a family-sized Javex Bleach container and call attention to Javex Bleach’s disinfectant properties.

Each of the ads features a different headline in bold white letters on a black background.

One reads, ‘Germ Warfare,’ another, ‘Give Us Your Germs,’ the third, ‘We’d Love to Catch Your Germs.’

As well, each ad carries the line ‘Kills All Household Germs,’ and each is tagged, ‘Javex Bleach. Because it’s not 100% clean till it’s germ free.’

Colgate awarded the Javex account to fcb in 1991, shortly after acquiring the brand from its then-owner, Bristol Myers Products Canada.

Hugh Ryan, Colgate’s director of marketing on household products, says the objective of the campaign is to ‘extend usage of bleach in English Canada from predominantly fabric care usage, which is a mature segment, to household cleaning.’

Ryan explains it has long been understood that English-Canadian bleach sales have a potential for growth in the disinfectant segment.

As evidence, he points not only to Quebec but also to Europe, ‘where Colgate has had significant success with bleach as a household cleaner.’

Ryan declines to reveal precise research findings for competitive reasons, but he says more English-Canadians use bleach as a fabric whitener than as a disinfectant, while the reverse is true across the Atlantic where more Europeans use it as a disinfectant than as a whitener.

Javex Bleach, the only nationally advertised bleach brand in Canada, accounts for roughly 50% of total dollar sales coast to coast.

Montreal-based Groupe Lavo, maker of Old Dutch bleach, sold in English Canada, and La Parisienne bleach, sold in Quebec, has about 23% of total dollar sales.

Private label brands account for the balance of the market.

Javex, which is positioned as the premium brand in the category, sells for between $2.49 and $2.69 for a 3.6-litre container, about 50 cents more than its competitors.

In regions of the country, primarily Ontario, where retailers have adopted everyday-low-price policies, Javex sells for $1.79, a premium of about 30 cents.

Karen Chisholm, Colgate’s product manager on Javex, says Javex experienced ‘roughly flat sales in 1992,’ so Colgate is eager to see the extended-usage campaign produce results.

Chisholm, who joined Colgate from Bristol Myers where she worked on Javex before the acquisition of the brand by Colgate from Bristol Myers, says that as far as she is aware the 50-odd year-old brand has never been supported by an ad campaign touting its disinfectant properties to the exclusion of its fabric-whitening properties.

Groupe Lavo, by way of contrast, has done limited advertising, primarily through information booklets, positioning its brands as disinfectants.

Over the years, Javex has been supported by a variety of tv campaigns emphasizing its whitening properties.

For the last year and a half, Colgate has been running a tv campaign entitled ‘Top Sox’ that positions Javex as the ‘ultimate whitener.’