50 Years of Fame: Brandfame - Persil

It is a sign of the power of Persil that former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham has admitted her early ambition was to be more famous than the laundry detergent.

Launched in 1908, Persil has always been positioned as a caring brand, emphasising both its cleaning credentials and its care in its first ITV ad in 1955 and consistently repeating the message since.

As well as being the first washing powder to advertise on TV, Persil was the first detergent to feature a man in its ads, in 1987. 'Skinhead' featured a mother leaving her son to wash his own shirt and depicted the numerous mishaps he encountered before finally emerging with a gleaming white shirt.

The brand's marketing innovation has been matched by its product innovation.

In 1968, it launched Persil Automatic to take advantage of new washing machines. In 1984, it launched the first 'non-biological' powder.

Promoting its innovations on TV has enabled the brand to retain its traditional fans, while also attracting younger users. The 1988 launch of Persil tablets provides a great example, incorporating the brand's long-standing use of 'mum' as a communication icon while attracting younger users with its progressive technology.

Persil recently embarked on a new approach to TV advertising with its £8m 'Dirt is good' campaign, which establishes dirt as an essential part of the development of children, and aims to show how Persil helps families live life to the full.

Persil is hoping the activity will help it grow again, after suffering an 11% sales slump in the 52 weeks to June 2005. Its market-leading position, with sales of £180m-£185m over the period, according to TNS Superpanel, is already testament to the reversal of fortunes it has engineered since the withdrawal of Persil Power in the mid-90s at a cost of £57m after revelations that it rotted clothes.

After losing its market-leading position to Ariel by the end of 1995, Persil turned to TV to rebuild customer trust, using the 'Persil Mum' to differentiate its products.

Nevertheless, it took the launch of Persil tablets in 1998 for the brand to regain its former market position.

When Persil began advertising on ITV, it benefited from already being a well-known brand. TV advertising has served to help the brand maintain that position of strength, and now, 50 years on, Persil remains one of the best-known and most successful UK detergents.

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