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The Brawny Man Makeover

Paul Holmes 07 May 2005

The face of one of America’s best-known brands changed forever as Georgia-Pacific launched its massively improved Brawny paper towels, featuring the first new Brawny Man icon in 30 years. The introduction of the new product was the culmination of work to reinvigorate the brand. The challenge was to reposition the brand and address research that showed consumers felt Brawny was too strong. It was decided to unveil the brand in a unique way, position Brawny as fresh, hip and drive trial of the product. Capitalizing on a brand personality through the brand icon, consumer awareness increased leading to amplified sales.

In developing the new Brawny Man character, Georgia-Pacific relied on extensive primary consumer research and testing, as well as feedback received during last year’s “Do You Know a Brawny Man?” contest, in which more than 4,000 people submitted essays and photos of men who they felt exemplified the traits of a Brawny Man. Focus groups were held with consumers to analyze Brawny paper towels’ iconic image, and the newly constructed paper towel versus the old paper towel and image. Consumers participating in a study comparing the new and old Brawny Man images overwhelmingly preferred the revised icon.

According to research and design firm Deskey, when asked which icon was most appealing, 73 percent of those in the study chose the new Brawny Man, compared with just 7 percent choosing the old Brawny Man.
Additionally, the consumers interviewed said the new image was a better fit with the brand (64 percent), appeared stronger (66 percent), and appeared to be the most well-rounded (68 percent).

Consumers rated new Brawny significantly better than the previous product on the attributes important to them, including absorbency, strength, softness and thickness. Ironically, some felt it might be too strong for them. The research indicated that the communications positioning of the new Brawny brand would have to identify the brand’s icon as strong but also sensitive, hip and fun. Based on this research, the Brawny brand shaped their program to redefine the Brawny Man and paper towel.

In order to engage consumers and help promote the change in the Brawny Man, Brawny and Harris Interactive conducted its own survey to determine if a male makeover program would make a good communications strategy and to determine who is responsible for household shopping. Results showed that: In general, 59 percent of women feel that men need a makeover; and 75 percent of women think their men should help with the housework; however, women also recognize that men need to look good.

More than three-quarters (77 percent) of all women (88 percent of married women who work full-time) say they are primarily responsible for the household shopping. The Brawny brand recognized that male makeovers go beyond physical appearance. Men deserve lifestyle makeovers - -grooming tips and tips in achieving sensitivity and spontaneity – which helped tie back makeovers to Brawny’s interior and exterior transformation.

In response to the brand’s overall perception and research that showed consumers sometimes felt Brawny might be “too strong” for them, Edelman developed a plan to unveil the brand and raise awareness among target consumers (women 18-55) and the media that reach them..

The overall strategy was to build an emotional connection between consumers and the Brawny man. This would involve educating them on the highlights of the icon’s evolution; unveiling new Brawny in a fun way to garner broad consumer awareness and media coverage; reaching out to key influencers with “hip” Brawny premiums; leveraging Georgia-Pacific’s relationship with NASCAR and celebrity circuit racer Kyle Petty to unveil new Brawny and provide national stage for massively improved product announcement; drawing attention to Brawny’s sensitive, softer side by launching the “Make Over My Brawny Man” contest with fashion maven Melissa Rivers.

To contrast the old and new icon, Brawny designed hip, cool “trucker hats” and baby doll t-shirts featuring the new Brawny Man on them as a throwback to years past – media outlets from The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal identified these items as hot new fashion trends for 2003/2004. The cool, hip and trendy premiums were sent to all media, as well as key influencers, celebrities, fashion stylists and industry moguls from the worlds of film, fashion and music to create buzz around the Brawny Man’s new look.

Brawny partnered with L.A. fashion week to include its trucker hats and baby doll t-shirts in the gift bags for guests to create a hip, cool quotient for Brawny outside the traditional realm of consumer packaged goods. A life-size, 6-foot rotating Brawny paper towel roll was unveiled during a Georgia-Pacific press conference at the Atlanta Motor Speedway with NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and his father, racing legend Richard Petty.

A b-roll video showcased the new Brawny paper towel coming off the line, as well as in-store displays, with history of the brand through the years. A b-roll media advisory was distributed directly to reporters and producers at over 200 targeted broadcast outlets, and was transmitted on two satellite feeds.

A surrounding the unveiling event was posted on the national newswire. Edelman pitched more than 350 targeted print and broadcast media with key messages and background information on the unveiling event. Press kits were distributed to target television, print, radio, online, entertainment/pop culture outlets, trade, NASCAR media, and influencers. The press kits included a timeline of the brand’s history, fun fact sheet, before-and-after shots of the Brawny paper towel roll, Georgia-Pacific backgrounder, and background on Kyle Petty and the NASCAR partnership.

Brawny partnered with Hearst publications to help launch the “Make Over My Brawny Man” contest. Brawny advertorials appeared in O, the Oprah magazine; Cosmopolitan; Country Living; and Redbook. In honor of the recent Brawny Man icon makeover, Brawny teamed up with red carpet fashion maven Melissa Rivers to help women uncover their men’s sensitive sides. Rivers conducted national media interviews, and was the spokesperson for a satellite media tour. A press release about the contest and survey was posted on the national newswire, and makeover tips by Rivers were posted on www.brawnyman.com. Rivers also recorded a radio news release, which was distributed nationwide.

The campaign generated nearly 118 million impressions and 1,338 placements and counting, including 94 television placements, 1,055 radio placements, 159 print placements, 26 online placements, and 1,423 contest entries. More than 90% of the stories that reached targeted media, focused on the new Brawny Man, and unveiling/contest, and highlighted the product’s brand messages.

Media highlights include: CNN Headline News, CNN American Morning, CNN Anderson Cooper 360, E! News Live, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, “Jimmy Kimmel Show”, WB Morning News, Fox  percent Friends, MSNBC, The Daily Buzz, AP, USA Today, Los Angeles Times (syndicated), Chicago Tribune, Fast Company Magazine, Glamour Magazine, Promo Magazine, The Wall Street Journal online, New York Times Magazine, National Public Radio and WOR-AM radio.

B-roll was picked up by ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX affiliates in top 50 markets across the nation; radio News Release of Melissa Rivers was picked up by 997 radio stations across the nation; Satellite Media Tour generated over 26 television placements and 24 radio placements.

Exceeding expectations, more than 490,000 hits to the Brawny Man Web site were made the week of the unveiling. Brawny achieved its cool, hip quotient by reaching key media and influencers. It was mentioned in unexpected, fresh places outside of Brawny’s normal realm, including “E! News Live”, The Howard Stern Show and OUT Magazine.

According to Gino Biondi, director of marketing for paper towels at Georgia-Pacific Corporation, “Edelman’s three-year strategy to reinvigorate the Brawny brand and bring a personality to this famous icon has truly paid off! In addition to GP’s massive capital investment in improving the physical attributes of the towel, Edelman’s campaign has delivered an emotional connection to the brand for consumers. The program has impacted sales and ‘water cooler’ conversation about the brand.”

Awareness of Brawny translated into dollars for the brand. Volume of Brawny paper towel shipments increased 6.1 percent which is 3.8 times the category growth rate of 1.6 percent..

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