Updated on May 24, 2010
Strolling through Tesco on Saturday, a particular product display caught my eye, for two reasons: its packaging with the word “New” prominent in its use; and the linking together of a leading consumer brand with a respectable non-profit scientific and educational institution.
The brand is Ambi Pur air fresheners and the scientific institution is National Geographic. It was the latter’s logo that caught my attention first, seemingly a little out of place in the household air fresheners aisle at the local supermarket.
But I thought, “Why not?” when thinking about brands and lifestyle affinities. The air freshener market isn’t one I claim much knowledge about, but I thought if it’s like detergents, maybe you need to think differently when looking for market growth for your brand if that market is saturated. So if you can’t expand the market conventionally, you need to either steal share from competitors or introduce something new that could extend your market share.
I don’t know which traditional route brand owner Sara Lee has taken, but it seems a good idea to connect a brand that’s positioned as being all about families, freshness, purity, clean living, etc, with one that enjoys a reputation for similar values. It seems a good fit to me.
I discovered that’s not a universal view, though. “NatGeo cheapens its brand by linking with vile air freshener,” says The Guardian’s GreenLiving Blog in a post in March, focusing on the chemical ingredients in the products.
[…] Mmmmm, I love the smell of Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde in the morning. Don’t you? Actually, you may well do as it’s a synthetic fragrance that has a smell something akin to Lily of the Valley. But when did you last come across Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde up a glacier in Alaska?
Seriously, National Geographic shouldn’t need to cheapen itself and its long-earned reputation like this. This is a car crash of inappropriately aligned brands that could so easily have been avoided.
I’ve not seen much more negative comment like that but I wonder how Sara Lee is addressing such criticism, how it’s engaging with fans and critics alike. Traditional media relations no doubt but what about more engaging forms of contact, directly with consumers? Social media come to mind. A Facebook page perhaps? Maybe an interactive website?
While I couldn’t find a Facebook page for this specific brand – although there are quite a few for Ambi Pur car fresheners in Canada as well as Twitter handles – there is a dedicated website for this product range, created last year at about the time that the brand tie-up with National Geographic was announced.
A pretty slick website, too, with lots of Flash animation, some ethereal music (that starts as soon as you land on the website: I hate that!) and a video (also on YouTube). And what a sterile place it appears to be. There’s no sense of engagement, just one-way marketing communication. Even the contact info is to the generic UK headquarters address rather than an individual or even a department.
I imagine that’s the goal, but what a wasted opportunity in my view to actually engage with visitors.
I also found news that Sara Lee has sold the division of which Ambi Pur is part to Procter and Gamble. That deal, valued at â‚¬320 million, is planned to be concluded during this year.
Now P&G has some very clear intentions on how it plans to use Facebook for its brands to connect directly with consumers of those brands. I wonder what will happen to Ambi Pur, and what other social media plans P&G might have for all the Sara Lee air care brands soon to be in its portfolio.
Funny sometimes the kinds of things that get you thinking about possibilities.