Sampling helps double product’s market share

In extensive sampling and couponing program in Quebec for Scotch-Brite Never Rust wool soap pads more than doubled the product's market share when compared with provinces that were exposed to mass media advertising alone, says the marketer in charge of the...

In extensive sampling and couponing program in Quebec for Scotch-Brite Never Rust wool soap pads more than doubled the product’s market share when compared with provinces that were exposed to mass media advertising alone, says the marketer in charge of the product.

Larry Reid, market manager for home care products at London, Ont.-based 3M Canada, says, in 1993, Scotch-Brite’s share of the soap pad market in Quebec reached 27, compared to just 12 in Ontario.

In both markets, the company had advertised the product on television and run an extensive magazine campaign.

2.1 million homes

In Quebec, however, samples of the product were distributed to 2.1 million homes together with a 25 cents-off coupon, while in Ontario, the product was sampled only lightly.

In response to the encouraging results in Quebec, 3M has rolled out its sampling and couponing program to 2.6 million households in Ontario, b.c. and Alberta, while maintaining its television and magazine advertising.

‘If what we learned the first year is correct, we should be experiencing decent lifts [in those provinces] by the fall,’ Reid says.

Scotch-Brite is a relative newcomer to the Canadian soap pad market, which, in Reid’s estimate, is worth $12 to $13 million.

The product was launched in March 1993.


Creative for all advertising elements, including the coupon, shows a Scotch-Brite Never Rust soap pad beside a rusty, disintegrating steel wool soap pad under the headline ‘Better than the Rust.’

The copy goes on to say the Scotch-Brite soap pad never rusts, never splinters, and, pad for pad, removes three times more baked-on food than any steel wool soap pad brand.

Unlike its competitors, s.o.s. and Jet pads, which are made from steel wool, Scotch-Brite is made from plastic, and, therefore, cannot rust.

The product is the result of four years of development after qualitative and quantitative research by 3M showed consumers did not like the tendency of steel wool soap pads to rust and splinter after having been immersed in water and then exposed to air.

Environmentally friendly

Although the product is spun from recycled two-litre pop bottles, uses biodegradable and phosphate-free soap, and is packaged in boxes made from 100% recycled materials, Reid says the advertising does not mention the environment-friendly nature of the product, because consumer research showed the No. 1 selling point was the product’s no-rust quality.

The company is spending about 20% of its marketing budget on sampling and couponing, and while Reid admits this is a ‘huge whack of change,’ he says it makes sense, given the unusually high conversion levels – typically, about 50% – once consumers had tried the product.

‘We have to get trial,’ Reid says.

‘We are going into places where the competitor, who is the only player in the marketplace, has been around for 75 years and is a household name,’ he says.

‘It is too easy for the consumer to walk down the aisle in the grocery store and pick up what they have always picked up.

‘Trying to change that behavior is very difficult unless the consumer has had an opportunity to try your product.’

Reid says the company combined the sample with a 25 cents-off coupon to provide consumers an added incentive to make the switch from a product they had been buying all their lives.

‘It’s been at the sink in their homes and their parents’ homes forever,’ he says. ‘So, you have to give them an incentive.’

As well, it allowed the company to more accurately track results by measuring how many coupons were redeemed in each region of the country.

Will slow down efforts

While 3M has experienced dramatic success with its sampling and couponing efforts, Reid says there will come a point when the company will slow down its sampling efforts and depend more on other elements of the marketing mix.

Given the relatively high cost of sampling, Reid says marketers must assess their use of the vehicle by how frequently consumers are in the market for the product, whether the product is demonstrably superior to the competition, and whether the product’s benefits can be communicated effectively through other media.

Armand Gilks, vice-president of sales at Telemedia Procom, one of the suppliers distributing the Scotch-Brite sample and coupon package through its Open & Save envelope, agrees it is important to have a good product.

‘If your product is not unique, or different, or better in some really noticeable way, it doesn’t make any sense to do a sampling program,’ Gilks says.

Focus on Quebec

Sampling and coupon distribution by 3M was concentrated in the Quebec market in the product’s first year because data from Nielsen Marketing Research showed Quebec consumers, especially outside Montreal, were heavier users of soap pads than consumers in other provinces.

Reid says the target market for Scotch-Brite is female, typically a little older than average, with a high school education and a couple of children.

The target market likes to use coupons, and in Quebec, at least, is generally French-speaking.

The company used data from Compusearch Micromarketing Data & Systems to target consumers who fall into more traditional lifestyle categories.

Reid says consumers who engage in traditional types of cooking and cleaning are more likely to need scouring pads, whereas people in urban centres are more likely to eat out or bring home prepared foods in disposable containers.

Now that 3M has made some serious inroads into the heavyduty scouring pad market, it has just launched a related product, Scotch-Brite Never Scratch, a plastic soap pad for use on Teflon, glassware and silverware.

Reid says sampling for the product will start next February or March.