SpongeTowels’ repositioning is all about getting over life’s messes

The new "Absorb Life" platform focuses on enjoying what life has to offer, as Kruger continues to increase investment in more purposeful marketing.
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SpongeTowels has launched a new creative campaign that is less about giving mom the absorbancy to clean a kid’s mess, and more about helping any person get past the frustrations they face to enjoy life.

“We want to move to more purpose with our brands,” says Susan Irving, chief marketing officer for Kruger. “Over the years, as CPG marketers, we’ve gone a little bit too far to function, and there needs to be a little bit more balance. If you look at brands like Dove or Barbie – any brand that has put more purpose into their messaging – there’s a lot more love for the brand and it does drive sales.”

Last year, Kruger undertook a tonal shift in its messaging with a masterbrand platform called “Unapologetically Human.” The goal of that shift was to help Kruger’s Cashmere, Purex, SpongeTowels and Scotties brands better connect with consumers on an emotional level.

“When the pandemic hit, none of our advertising was relevant anymore,” explains Irving. “When we saw that ‘Unapologetically Human’ resonated so much, we couldn’t go back to our old ads. We needed to really take stock of consumer sentiment and what the role of our products were in their lives.”

Having taken that stock, SpongeTowels is now embarking on a new campaign and brand positioning, dubbed “Absorb Life,” which Irving says “is all about the fact that we spend so much time worrying about messes instead of enjoying life.”

The spot does away with the brand’s white onesie-clad mascot who would previously show up to help families – usually moms – clean up whatever mess had been made in their home. Instead, it shows a variety of people spilling cups of coffee while working late or being clumsy in the kitchen, who each use a SpongeTowel to move on from the frustration and focus on what life has to offer.

That replaces the sterility of messaging typical to the paper towel category, with a more honest look at how SpongeTowels fits into peoples’ lives, says Jay Chaney, CSO at Broken Heart Love Affair, which developed the campaign.

“The category often deals in spills and messes, but it does so in a way that’s unemotional and almost removed from a sense of humanity,” he says. “There are moments captured in this spot that are filled with tension. You can tell these people are on their last straw.”

Among the upsides to the new brand positioning and campaign – which Irving says tested very well – is the ability to be more representative of the people who actually use the SpongeTowels product.

“Sponge is a playful personality but it’s always been very targeted. When you saw it, it was about a mother trying to keep everything clean,” explains Irving. “There’s a swimmer in the new spot, a little violinist, a dad, a mechanic and a mom.”

“We’ve looked at it as a human product as opposed to one for specific individuals as a shopper, and that’s allowed us to speak to a variety of individuals,” adds Chaney. “That opens up the doors for things like better representation, both as the shopper and people who engage with the products. I think that has a net positive impact on the marketing and connection to the brand.”

The campaign spot is airing on TV and online, and will remain in market for the next four weeks. Media for the spot was handled by Wavemaker.

Kruger reported a 17.3% dip in revenue in Q1, which CEO Dino Bianco attributed largely to destocking, as consumer confidence has made them stock up on products and retailers moved through heavy stock levels left over from 2020. The dip is also partially a result from comparison to Q1 of last year, when stockpiling caused a surge in demand.

Bianco said during an investor call that the company plans to continue an increase in marketing investment it began last year, as “bolder, more distinctive” campaigns like “Unapologetically Human” and “Unleash The Scotties” have gained traction with consumers. During the call, Bianco also said that the launch of the premium SpongeTowels Ultra Pro variety – featured in the spot – would help put Kruger on the path to leadership in the towel category, where it currently has 22.2% market share.