For CPG brands, valuable business lines and data access can come from unlikely sources.
Land O’Lakes found a useful first-party data asset in its ancillary farm equipment and seed sales. Beam Suntory, the alcohol brand, uses brewery tourists for prospecting.
Another example is Tide’s dry cleaning and laundry franchise business you probably never knew about.
Selling laundry detergent and opening cleaning franchise locations may not seem like a cutting-edge marketing tactic … but it’s arguably more exciting than anything happening in the metaverse right now.
Tide-operated laundromat and dry cleaners have been in business for more than a decade, said Laura Wright, associate marketing director at the Procter & Gamble-owned laundry brand. Wright joined the company four years ago.
Over the past few years, though, Tide dry cleaners have really taken off, growing from zero to 60 locations between 2010 and 2019. Tide now has 189 locations with more in the pipeline.
One factor driving the growth of Tide’s full-service laundry franchising is the general trend towards outsourcing household tasks. Meal kit services, home cleaners, grocery delivery and other daily to do’s are increasingly being outsourced, Wright said.
Laundry is yet another daily “necessary evil,” she said. But “we can deliver that time back to them – that’s the anchor of the pitch.”
There are other motivators, too.
Eight of Tide’s 189 laundry locations are owned by the brand, as opposed to franchisees, and Tide uses them as a valuable product testbed. Four of those eight locations are located near P&G’s headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, where it has its lab and development facility for laundry products.
“When we have new chemicals or new cleaning processes, we’re hand-in-hand testing and providing feedback,” Wright said. “That collaboration is a big value for P&G.”
There are also the marketing benefits. The dry cleaners give P&G a marketing and data edge.
During the early stages of the pandemic in 2020, for example, Tide began offering free laundry and dry cleaning services to hospital workers and first responders (alongside a broad PR and media campaign promoting its goodwill). That effort was only possible because of the franchise network.
And then there’s the data.
First-party DTC data wasn’t top-of-mind when Tide first launched its brick-and-mortar laundry service and dry cleaners, Wright said. The P&G-backed Mr. Clean brand operated a line of car wash franchises before it started opening Tide-branded cleaners. The main purpose was to serve as a utility for its consumers.
But the data is important now.
When Wright joined P&G in 2018, there was a discussion about whether to open more Tide-owned cleaner franchise locations or take a licensing approach. P&G decided on the former.
Dry cleaners and full-serve laundromats that reach a certain quality threshold and commit to carrying Tide products can promote themselves as Tide-licensed operations and display the brand. Tide spends more than nearly any other brand to associate its name with the word “clean,” and thousands of laundromat owners would gladly pay to piggyback on that.
“When you consider the points of differentiation for the business in terms of innovation and cleaning technology, we wanted it to be more than just meting out the Tide name,” Wright said.
Plus, there’s the app-based rewards program for regulars. (App-based loyalty program users are essentially CPG catnip right now.)
“It’s a fun time to be a part of what some people consider kind of an unsexy business,” Wright said.