Dr. Scholl’s gets to the sole of the problem

Our feet are the parts of our body furthest from our head, our brain and our heart. Is that why people don't seem to take their foot discomfort and pain seriously? Or is it that feet are the body's punching bags? That they are 'supposed' to hurt?
These are the questions we were asking ourselves and focus groups last summer, as the management team of the footcare (Dr. Scholl's and Tinactin) line at Schering-Plough Healthcare Products.

Our feet are the parts of our body furthest from our head, our brain and our heart. Is that why people don’t seem to take their foot discomfort and pain seriously? Or is it that feet are the body’s punching bags? That they are ‘supposed’ to hurt?

These are the questions we were asking ourselves and focus groups last summer, as the management team of the footcare (Dr. Scholl’s and Tinactin) line at Schering-Plough Healthcare Products.

We were tackling a highly fragmented and complex market, encompassing several distinct segments; where market boundaries at retail and functional benefits to the consumer were becoming fuzzier over time, and where new competitors were making some inroads.

Yet as the overwhelming market leader, we were trying to crack what we determined was the key issue impeding explosive growth for the brands in the marketplace: inertia. People just couldn’t be bothered to do anything about their foot discomfort.

Compounding the challenge was a relevance issue for both the brand and, again, the body part. ‘Other people’ have foot problems. The footcare aisle is for ‘people with foot problems’, not me. These people in focus groups frustrated us. What do they mean? we thought. Why don’t they treat their feet to Dr. Scholl’s?

Faced with these challenges we sat down and mapped out two key objectives:

* making the footcare aisle (and the brand) more relevant to consumers, therefore increasing household penetration of the category;

* taking advantage of those people who were foot involved, by building loyalty among Dr. Scholl’s consumers.

We tackled the relevance issue by fundamentally changing the way we communicate with consumers, altering the language we used to be more colloquial, more lifestyle driven, less technical. ‘Follow a healthy footcare regimen’ became ‘Don’t forget your feet’ etc. We amended the visual images representing the brand, making them more active and approachable.

And the icing on the cake: we came up with a new, homegrown, Canadian advertising campaign developed through our close partnership with FCB Toronto. (A local campaign was necessary as the U.S. was pursuing different strategic objectives).

The exercise started with a session with famed Canadian anthropologist Grant McCracken. He helped us to isolate the need for Canadians to ‘physically’ connect with their feet in order to ‘own them.’ From this, the account and creative teams came up with the notion that feet should be allowed to take on a personality and speak out for themselves. The genesis of an advertising campaign was upon us.

The idea: Wake Up! Your feet are talking to you! Take care of them, and your quality of life will improve. Creative was delivered through highly focused, tight TV rotations in post-work prime-time (when peoples’ feet are talking to them the loudest).

In one execution, a jogger rests, takes off his shoes and socks, after which his foot shakes like a wet dog (to his surprise and delight). In another, a working woman walks down a busy street, only to have her feet squeal out in discomfort and embarrass her. In the third, a man, returning from a hard day at the office, relaxes on his couch, massaging his foot, when the foot reaches up to slap him, as if to say ‘I’m here…why don’t you think of me, eh?’

The back end of each ad highlights the wide Dr. Scholl’s product range, reinforces product benefits, and introduces the Canadian Web site.

A similar transit campaign was also developed.

The idea for a loyalty program for the brand arose from the fact that 80% of Canadians in a typical 12 month period suffer from 2.5 foot conditions, but less than a half of those people actually treat – and only an average of one condition, at that.

As marketers, we all know that existing category users provide a greater short-term return than do new users. The way to attain cross-purchase goals, we surmised, was by exposing people to attainable, relevant information about foot conditions and solutions.

Hence, the FootPrint program was born. With three opportunities to participate – online, in-store and at home (through DM) – the FootPrint program helps people to learn how to make their feet comfortable, without having to invest a lot of time and effort.

The online FootPrint component is simple to use and highly interactive. Available at www.drscholls.ca, it provides helpful tips for taking control of the comfort and appearance of feet.

The in-store FootPrint kit allows Canadians to ‘bare their soles’ to determine their foot type by using the FootPrint foot chart. The chart then gives recommended solutions.

Finally, the FootPrint mail kit, delivered to select homes across Canada, invites people to participate by identifying foot-related conditions that are of interest. We then follow up with informative updates and offers, specific to the person’s footcare interests.

So there you have it. Two tools from our 2002 marketing tool chest to help deal with the complex and competitive footcare market. With a focus of bringing new users into the marketplace and then upselling and cross-selling them on other products within our diverse line, our plans have met with early success in the summer of 2002. Early sales results are promising and response to the FootPrint program has dramatically exceeded typical DM rates of 4% to 5%. It appears that, when you communicate with them in a way that is relevant to their lifestyle, Canadians are ready to listen to their feet.

Ruth Sagorsky is marketing director of footcare and suncare for Schering-Plough Healthcare Products in Toronto. Schering-Plough is a division of Montreal-based Schering Canada. She can be reached at ruth.sagorsky@spcorp.com.