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It isn’t easy to make something that has been around for nearly 150 years look new. But Proctor & Gamble (P&G) is working hard to refresh its Ivory soap brand, which was first introduced in 1879.

The brand whose image has consistently promised purity has long appeared in white, subdued packaging. Not anymore: The new Ivory will come in brightly colored packages, with cyan, purple, and green splashed across the wrappers and bottles.

Furthermore, whereas P&G devoted only $325,000 to advertising Ivory at the end of the 2000s, a new campaign is sweeping across various marketing channels. In humorous televised ads running in select cities with strong markets for the brand, P&G mocks how complicated the use of soap has become. Unusual soaps made to look like waffles with syrup and sugar contrast against the pure bars that Ivory continues to offer.

Along with traditional advertising on television, in magazines, and through banners on popular websites, Ivory has started an online community on Facebook, called Soap Dish. Hosted by the Emmy-award–winning comedian Melissa McCarthy of Mike & Molly and Bridesmaids, the community encourages young moms to discuss issues of marriage and motherhood—and soap.

This repackaging and new advertising push also reflects a repositioning for the Ivory brand. It has long appealed to both men and women. But P&G aims to improve its annual sales of less than $100 million by making a devoted push to appeal to young moms, in addition to keeping core customers. The consumer goods manufacturer offers multiple soap brands, such as Olay, Gillette, Old Spice, Safeguard, and Camay. Ivory’s annual sales rank third among these six brands—but maybe not for long.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does Ivory soap make you think of? 
  2. Should Ivory rebrand itself?

Source: Jane Levere, “Ivory Soap Refreshes Its Ads and Its Look, But Is Resolutely Simple,” The New York Times, November 7, 2011.