P&G's (PG) Metamucil brand touting new health benefits in "orange blob" ad campaign

Strategy aims to broaden appeal for fiber

CINCINNATI - It is not Procter & Gamble Co.'s biggest brand, but Metamucil might be the most colorful. That color is translucent orange, as in the "cute, little orange blob" that debuted as the brand's unofficial mascot at the end of June.

"It's a really interesting metaphor we call Blob," said Michelle Potorski, associate marketing director for wellness brands at P&G. "It's an orange blob going through a park and picking up different things. They compare that back to how Metamucil actually works in the body."

You can see the commercial on YouTube , where it has chalked up a modest 55 views in five days.

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The animation, created by the Publicis agency, is designed to highlight three key health benefits of Metamucil, a dietary fiber supplement that appears to be growing as P&G marketers stress health benefits tied to the brand.

In packaging materials and in advertising campaigns, P&G is now asserting that Metamucil "helps lower cholesterol, promotes digestive health and helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels." The blood sugar claim was added April, after P&G received final clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, but the strategy has been active since 2009.

"Almost everybody knows about Metamucil. We've got over 80 percent brand awareness," Potorski said. "Dialing up the fact that it can do so much more than people even realize with all these health benefits has been really beneficial to the brand."

P&G wouldn't provide sales figures but a 2012 IBISWorld Industry Report estimated Metamucil grew revenue by 7 percent from 2009 to 2011. The brand had a 30 percent market share, generating $88.5 million in 2011 revenue, according to the Los Angeles –based market research firm. IBISWorld pegs the entire U.S. market for dietary fiber supplements at $288.5 million, with Metamucil the market leader followed by GlaxoSmithKline's Citrucel product and Benefiber from Novartis AG.

"As consumers become more health conscious, Americans will demand more supplements to improve their nutrition," said the IBIS World report. "In the five years to 2017, industry revenue is forecast to rise by an average annual rate of 3.5% to $354.3 million."

P&G declined to comment on its sales growth or market share. But it did estimate the size of the U.S. dietary fiber supplement market at $452.7 million.

"Only 12 and a half percent of households in the U.S. are purchasing and using any type of fiber supplement," Potorski said. "With the number of people that are not getting enough fiber in their diet, there is tremendous upside to develop this category."

Xavier University Marketing Professor Tom Hayes said the campaign is textbook Procter & Gamble, with a strong marketing message built on research.

"They don't like to compete any place where they don't have a technological edge," said Hayes. "They've steadily been moving into the health area over the years, especially with aging baby boomers."

Hayes also praised the orange blob commercial, saying it conveyed the science of beneficial fiber in a way that can be easily understood.

Metamucil was acquired by P&G in 1985 and operates as part of its personal health category, which includes such brands as Pepto-Bismol, Prilosec and Vicks. Potorski has worked on Metamucil's brand strategies for roughly two years and counts among the brand's successes a Facebook page with 100,000 fans and "significant increases" in P&G's internal brand equity scores.

"We have increased our popularity quite a bit," Potorski said. "If you look across social media, over 18,000 people talking about Metamucil at any point time in the week."

P&G may add new health claims to Metamucil's marketing strategies in the future because it causes consumers who weren't already using the brand to think about it in new ways.

"We're always looking at potential opportunity around claim innovation," she said. "There is still a lot of awareness to be gained and a lot of upside potential … As consumers become aware of these claims they are very receptive and we do see it reflected in their attitudes toward the brand."

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