Procter & Gamble postpones Tide Pods launch – because too many people want it

Does that seem strange?

Well the biggest consumer products company in the world is delaying the launch of its biggest product for decades because the demand is such that it can’t make enough.

Or that’s the official story anyway.

This is from Ad Age.

Procter & Gamble Co. is putting its high-profile launch of Tide Pods liquid laundry tablets, originally set for September, on hold until early next year, saying it needs extra time to meet strong projected demand for what it bills as the biggest new thing in laundry in a generation.

The move should allow P&G to avoid production bottlenecks and rationing that in recent years have kept launches such as Gillette Fusion ProGlide from realizing their full potential as fast as they would have. P&G this spring has ramped up spending on ProGlide after slowing it down late last year in the face of production constraints.

“We have experienced unprecedented demand for distribution of Tide Pods, and since we would like to be sure that all our consumers and customers will have instant access to the breakthrough product as of the launch date, we have adjusted our launch timing,” a P&G spokeswoman said in an email.

Production is proceeding well, she said, but it was the strength of demand that led to the decision to hold off distribution.

The move also means P&G will be shifting spending on what was expected to be a $150 million launch from the third and fourth quarters into the first quarter of 2012. Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, Digitas and Starcom MediaVest Group handle advertising, digital and communications planning, and media buying, respectively, for Tide.

Retailers, the P&G spokeswoman said, “were disappointed to hear that news as they have high expectations on the product launch potential but at the same time they were understanding of the situation.”

Rather kind I think.

And all very frustrating for Publicis Groupe and its agencies Saatchi & Saatchi, Digitas and Starcom MediaVest who were all set to reap a $150m advertising bonanza.

And all those consumers of course.

This all begs a few questions.

How does P&G know so many people want it?

Why hasn’t it got enough of the stuff?

It’s hardly new technology, these products have been sold in Europe for years.

This looks like a mega marketing cock-up.

Expect to see a few senior P&G executives considering career alternatives some time soon.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.