Rescue mission: In a race against time, Kruger’s Nancy Marcus managed to successfully rebrand five strong properties before losing trademark rights

It's not everyday that a brand has to differentiate itself from itself. But that's exactly the conundrum faced by Nancy Marcus, VP marketing at Scott Paper. When parent company, Montreal-based Kruger Products, bought Scott Paper from Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark in 1997, the agreement of sale only included use of the Scott Paper name and its associated brands like Cottonelle and ScotTowels until June 2007. So, while the company had scored some market-leading brands at the time, it faced the daunting task of being forced to rebrand within the next decade.

It’s not everyday that a brand has to differentiate itself from itself. But that’s exactly the conundrum faced by Nancy Marcus, VP marketing at Scott Paper. When parent company, Montreal-based Kruger Products, bought Scott Paper from Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark in 1997, the agreement of sale only included use of the Scott Paper name and its associated brands like Cottonelle and ScotTowels until June 2007. So, while the company had scored some market-leading brands at the time, it faced the daunting task of being forced to rebrand within the next decade.

That’s where Marcus came in. Kruger approached her in 2001 with its unusual marketing dilemma. ‘[They said] ‘Nancy, we’ve got five brand transitions and one company name transition in the next few years,” she recalls. Always up for a challenge, Marcus left her post as VP marketing at tobacco co, Toronto-based RJR Macdonald, to lead the complete brand overhauls. Her first big challenge was to get the right agencies on board. After poring through material from the 80+ agencies that submitted proposals, Marcus settled on Toronto-based John St. for English Canada, and Montreal’s PALM Arnold for the Quebec market.

Faced with multiple brands to relaunch, Marcus decided to tackle Cottonelle first. ‘It’s one of the jewels,’ she says of the brand, which was the number-one-selling bathroom tissue at the time. ‘We wanted to do a slow evolution.’ She took a cautious, three-phase approach to the transition, beginning with a 2004 campaign announcing the brand was changing its name to Cashmere, followed by the name change itself in 2005. Finally, in 2006, they took the name ‘Cottonelle’ off the packaging altogether.

Marcus focused on tying Cashmere to fashion as a key differentiation point. In 2004, she and PR agency, Toronto-based Strategic Objectives, launched a Cashmere-sponsored fashion show featuring cashmere garments by prominent Canadian designers like David Dixon and Paul Hardy. At the same time, she launched an online contest to win a white cashmere pashmina, supported by POS and on-package messaging. ‘We were quite astounded by consumers’ reaction to [the contest],’ recalls Marcus, adding that they extended the pashmina giveaway to incorporate a grand prize trip to New York City. ‘The response tripled expectations.’

And, an effort last fall involving design students surpassed the results of the pro designers’ show. This time around, there was one key difference – instead of cashmere, competitors had to craft their creations out of Cashmere toilet paper. The gimmick landed tons of press for Cashmere by outlets like Citytv and Elle Canada. The two student fashion shows – one in Toronto, one in Montreal – scored coverage as far away as Europe. ‘It was fascinating that [the media coverage] did grow over the last year with the [professional] designers,’ Marcus says, adding that the competition ‘absolutely delivered’ from an ROI perspective. ‘It exceeded our expectations.’

Last year’s mass media campaign by

John St. also reinforced the fashion angle, featuring women tearing a strip off their bathroom tissue dresses. In French Canada, a campaign by PALM Arnold plays up the ‘indulgence factor’ of the 3-ply tissue.

So far, the positioning seems to be working: Not only has Cashmere retained Cottonelle’s number-one status, its market share has increased. ‘To me, the signal that it’s an enormous success is that since the relaunch, the business is actually in better shape than before,’ says Arthur Fleischmann, president of John St. ‘They call it transitioning, but that undersells what she’s done…she’s essentially rescued Scott Paper. The potential downside of [losing the trademarks] is catastrophic.’

While re-strategizing Cashmere’s positioning was a big task, Marcus also had to worry about carving new directions for Scott Towels, Viva (its value-tissue brand), and the Scott Paper company name itself. Scott Towels wound up transitioning to Sponge Towels, complete with product adjustments to incorporate ‘sponge pockets’ to better justify the new name. Viva is being folded into Kruger’s other value tissue line, White Swan, and the Scott Tournament of Hearts has been renamed the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

To further differentiate the brands and deepen the emotional connection with consumers, 2006 marked the beginning of a partnership with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF), which Marcus opted to tie to Scotties and Cashmere.

‘We want to talk to our consumers with a very relevant strategic positioning,’ she says, adding that breast cancer is top-of-mind with the prime target for both brands, women 25-54. The Cashmere packaging even includes a pink ribbon wrapping the woman in the logo.

To increase awareness of the partnership, Scott and CBCF teamed up with Warner Music Canada to produce an exclusive CD compilation called Songs from the Heart, featuring the likes of Phil Collins and Cher. The CD is being given away as a mail-in offer.

Marcus is no stranger to marketing challenges. She began her career in the ultra-competitive soft drink category at 7UP, back when it was still owned by Philip Morris. From there, she did stints at Canada Dry and Cadbury Beverages. ‘I spent almost 15 years in the soft drink business…and ended up in the bathroom tissue business,’ says Marcus, quipping that her career has come full circle. She briefly launched her own business, a retail/ arts and crafts enterprise called Kid’s Creative Playhouse in Toronto’s Beaches neighborhood, before rejoining the corporate world with RJR Macdonald.

The coming months should be interesting for Marcus and her team, with the looming threat of Cottonelle and Scott Towels coming back to Canada.

‘If Kimberly-Clark does decide to return to the marketplace, there will be confusion,’ says Marcus. But, for her part, she’s confident that she has differentiated her brands enough from their previous incarnations to withstand the ultimate test: the possibility of competing against their original identities. ‘The transition allowed us to revitalize and contemporize our product.’

FIVE QUESTIONS

Favourite book

Charlie and the Chocolate

Factory. That book sat on my bedstand throughout my childhood. It was one of the most engrossing, engaging, beautifully written books.

Favourite TV show of all time

Bewitched. It was an integral part of my growing up. Samantha’s powers stay with me today – she epitomized a really different type of person.

Favourite magazine

Vanity Fair. It’s smart, it’s fast, it’s fun.

Last ad that inspired you to make a purchase

The Apple Mac ads. Apple just

succinctly delivers it. It really does show the differences between an Apple and a PC.

Ideal retirement spot

Capetown, South Africa. The most glorious place that has ever existed, from an aesthetic point of view.