Newsflash: Poker is hot. Especially splashy TV tourneys. So it's little wonder Peter Pinfold, Degree brand manager at Unilever Canada, noticing the massive trend in the U.S., decided it might just be an effective way to relaunch Degree. For men.

Newsflash: Poker is hot. Especially splashy TV tourneys. So it’s little wonder Peter Pinfold, Degree brand manager at Unilever Canada, noticing the massive trend in the U.S., decided it might just be an effective way to relaunch Degree. For men.

Yes, some of you might remember Degree in the ’80s, and you’re right, in those days it was a unisex brand. A successful one at that. But after years of double-digit decline, presumably as men and women decided it was no longer kosher to use the same product, it was time to make some changes. ‘We talked to men who thought the product was for women and vice-versa,’ says Pinfold. ‘It simply was no longer appealing.’

Enter Degree for Men, which just launched in April (For Women will be launched early next year). Very funny new ads with male Barbies afflicted by Momma’s Boy Complexes by Draft in Chicago (formerly Lowe) have hit the airwaves. The packaging was also redesigned, moving from teal to a very manly silver. Scents were changed using names that were more masculine in nature like Silver Ice. Even the size of the stick’s barrel – ahem – got wider. And with consumers looking for more than the traditional fare, the relaunch marketing strategy had to be equally testosterone-driven: something to underscore the brand’s tagline, ‘For men who take risks.’

The adrenaline-pumping game of poker was a perfect fit for the brand, says Baron Manett, VP client development at Toronto-based Segal Communications, which was responsible for much of the idea as well as promotions and ironing out the contracts between all the program’s partners. He says poker is a metaphor that helps position Degree as ‘the thinking man’s antiperspirant’ and for the man who takes ‘calculated risks.’

‘Lots of people have thought about [using] poker,’ Pinfold admits, but no one has endeavoured to pull together the first Canadian poker championship. Partnering with TSN, the one-week pre-recorded program, called the Degree Poker Championship, will be broadcast nationally during primetime starting Sept. 15. ‘It’s a Canadian first,’ he enthuses.

Yes, there’s a lot of signage, but it’s truly a partnership, with TSN producing three promo spots that highlight the broadcast of the tournament. The spots also drive consumers to the Web site, which has already had about 100,000 unique visitors (a database goldmine). Then there’s the ‘Degree All-in Moment,’ which will flash on the screen and be mentioned during the broadcast at the point of this high-risk hand.

The tournament, which has already taken place, successfully reached the 25-40 male demographic, says Pinfold. About 2,000 men – and even some women – won the opportunity to participate in the two tournaments: one at the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort, the other B.C.’s River Rock Casino Resort (In total, about 22,000 online applications were received over five weeks).

And the winner has competed in the seriously high stakes World Series of Poker Tournament broadcast on ESPN. Among new and veteran players, an association with the biggest poker event in the world will immediately add credibility to the tournament here, a fact that Pinfold will leverage by using the logo on the Web site and other marketing communications.

All this, he says, is but the first phase of Degree’s rebranding. But poker will stay front and centre: A deal has been inked with TSN for two more years.

Trendspotting anyone?

Ideas are a dime a dozen. But good ideas are golden. We did some globe-scoping to track down the ideas that we hope will find a home in our part of the world in the very near future. The others? Well, a dash of the wacky we adore.

1. GastroPub/UK

Yum. What’s better than pub food…from England? Don’t knock it. Over the past few years the U.K. has gained fans among those of the epicurean set. And while Marks and Spencer is hardly Michelin worthy, its 20 meals launched late last year and inspired by the country’s infamous pub food has proved ‘extremely successful,’ says PR rep Olivia Ross. Consider cottage pie with cheesy mash; salmon kiev with prawns, lemon and herbs; and roast chicken with apple wedges and cider calvados sauce…. What’s new is that the fare is not quite frozen, not quite fresh, but all (we hazard a guess) de-licious!

2. Camper/Spain

Describing the concept, retail guru John Torella, from J.C. Williams Group, seemed giddy. ‘It’s experiential branding at it’s best,’ he remarked. Starting with a superfunky shoe, the Spanish brand has morphed into the quintessential lifestyle brand, opening a restaurant featuring très cool tapas-inspired camper foodBALL and comfy living room-like spaces. More recently they opened a superhip hotel in Barcelona, aptly called Casa Camper. Stores have been popping up like crazy around Europe and Asia, pushing the philosophy that true luxe is found in simplicity. Cross your fingers that Toronto’s next.

3. Life/Japan

This novel idea comes from the forever-inspired Japanese. We, however, couldn’t help but wrinkle our noses at it. Black cotton swabs… Like pink toilet paper or driving on the left side of the road, there’s just something fundamentally wrong about it. Nonetheless, conceived by Heiwa Medic, it’s all the rage among the Japanese who feel that anything removed by the swab can be viewed more easily than on their white counterpart. Ummm, Okay. Still, if the super-trendy Japanese love it, we’re sure the rest of the world will follow suit. Eventually.

4. City Hideout/The Netherlands

Oddly profound and strangely delightful. We simply adored this fold-up, portable, man-sized box. The inspiration? ‘I thought it would be nice sometimes to be able to blend in with an environment like a busy city and not be noticed for a while,’ says its Dutch designer Guido Doms. The mind of the artiste….