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    P&G Bows ‘Future Friendly’ Sustainability Platform

    CPG powerhouse Procter & Gamble yesterday took the wraps off its years-in-the-making program to help consumers whom the company calls the “Sustainable Mainstream” make simple choices based on resource conservation.

    CPG powerhouse Procter & Gamble yesterday took the wraps off its years-in-the-making program to help consumers whom the company calls the “Sustainable Mainstream” make simple choices based on resource conservation. The “Future Friendly” platform debuts across a range of products mostly within Cincinnati-based P&G Household Needs portfolio, including the Tide Coldwater and HE (high-efficiency) product lines, Gain HE, Cascade, Dawn, Ultra, Charmin and Bounty.

    Scheduled to drop on March 29 with a television ad and BrandSaver coupons targeting 55 million households, and with a second promotional push set to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in April, the national launch will also encompass social media and in-store tools such as logos, packaging, hang tags, displays, wobblers and shelf talkers.

    Future Friendly was developed to “simplify the conversation” with consumers about simple but meaningful steps they can take to reduce water, energy and waste usage, noted Maurice Coffey, marketing director for the program at its official kickoff at the Grand Hyatt New York in Manhattan. The way Cincinnati-based P&G hopes to achieve that aim is through education, unique partnerships with such esteemed organizations as National Geographic and Earth Day Network, and the dissemination of clear, scientific measures.

    The program initially rolled out in 2007 as an in-store initiative in western Europe and Canada, and was then tested in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, market starting in April 2009. At such Cedar Rapids retailers as Hy-Vee, Target and Walmart, P&G saw a “significant product lift” across its product lineup, as well as a rise in consumers’ overall value perception of the brands.

    The Cedar Rapids market was chosen because it’s representative of the breadth of U.S. consumers as determined by recent research funded by P&G and conducted by Ipsos. The research uncovered three broad groupings of consumers: “Dark Green” or sustainability-minded shoppers willing to spend more on eco-friendly products, at about 17 percent of the population; “Sustainable Mainstream” shoppers, accounting for about 70 percent of households, who are interested in resource conservation but unsure how to go about it; and “Basic Living” shoppers, also about 17 percent, who are uninterested in, or even averse to, in sustainability.

    A decisive factor in P&G’s decision to target the Sustainable Mainstream was the finding that 37 percent of consumers’ main reason for not buying sustainable products was that they don’t have enough information on what made a product green, or why they should buy it, and the data overload on the Internet has only added to the confusion. Additional findings that the most important motives for buying a product are price (cited by 47 percent) and performance (38 percent) cemented the company’s approach: demonstrating to consumers that the familiar products they already know and love are not only good for the environment, but also still provide the right value for the money.

    The reason to focus on sustainability was a simple one, according to Glenn Williams, P&G’s external relations manager: Despite speculation that the weak economy would kill the green movement, it survived the brutal onslaught of the recession, thereby proving that it’s “here to stay.” Likewise, Household Needs products were a good place to start, since they’re used on an everyday basis. A subsequent phase of the program will focus on the company’s HBC products.

    In terms of how retailers stand to benefit from Future Friendly, Duncan Love, who handles market strategy and sales at P&G, noted that the program is simple and practical to execute, helping retailers streamline their offering with ease, as it involves products already in their stores; taps into consumer “passion points” of resource conservation and dollar savings; and was backed by the full support of the CPG company’s marketing and executive teams. Additionally, Love said, Future Friendly helps retailers deliver on their “store of the community” proposition of helping customers to live better, and can be incorporated into stores’ existing sustainability efforts, allowing grocers and other retail channels to put their own spin on the initiative. What’s more, he continued, Future Friendly gives shoppers yet another reason to purchase premium products.

    15,000 to 20,000 retail outlets will feature the Future Friendly program, according to Love.

    In a later interview with the three P&G execs, Williams set forth the ultimate goal of the program, which pinpoints the unserved need of Sustainable Mainstream consumers for actionable information: “It’s about making conservation second nature.” Although he expected some resistance on the part of shoppers to permanent changes in support of sustainability, he believed that Future Friendly would “grow over the course of time.” As Coffey noted, in summing up P&G’s approach to the issue, which even succeeded in capturing sales from the hard-core Dark Green demographic during the Cedar Rapids test, “The principle of ‘You don’t have to give up anything’ makes it good for everybody.”

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