The Birth of a Category
The birth of the Pampers brand is arguably P&G’s best example of what happens when there is healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo. In 1956, a P&G researcher, Vic Mills, disliked changing the cloth diapers of his newborn grandchild. So he assigned fellow researchers in
P&G’s Exploratory Division in Miami Valley, Ohio to look into the practicality of making a better disposable diaper.
At the time, disposable diapers were used in less than 1% of the billions of diaper changes in the
United States each year.
P&G’s first test market was a fortunate failure. It was conducted in Dallas, Texas during the summer of 1958. The temperature was in the 90s and the plastic pants made the babies uncomfortable.
Additionally, the plastic pants were not low cost and consumers told us that they couldn’t purchase them often. These initial design and marketing problems turned out to be a blessing in disguise. P&G went back to the drawing board to create a low cost, better-designed product that consumers could purchase frequently.
Six months after the Dallas test market,
P&G designed a diaper with better features including zee pleats, superior containment, a hydrophobic topsheet and a plastic backsheet. After 37,000 diapers were prepared, largely by hand, market testing began again. This time, the results were favorable and Pampers began to move out of its infancy. Going Global
Touching lives, improving life: this was as important to use in the 1970s as it is today. In 1971,
P&G expanded the Pampers brand around the world, working with regional teams to make sure they understood the cultural differences and parenting preferences in order to produce and market an affordable disposable diaper. Whether working to understand the highly discriminating
Japanese consumer or to opening the first international plant in Euskirchen, Germany, global teamwork was a critical factor.
Today, Pampers is P&G’s biggest global brand, with products serving consumers in 98 countries.
And they’ve worked hard over the past fifty years to create the infrastructure to support this growth. In the 1970s, P&G learned that what they couldn’t do alone, they could do with a global partner and joint ventures became as important to us as our acquisitions. Additionally, P&G was the first U.S. company to create a truly global brand, making Pampers as familiar a term in
Singapore as it is in South Dakota.
In P&G ‘s continued search to find ways to improve their products, they went to the task of finding a leakage solution. They started working in 1973 to perfect the fitted diaper -- an hour-glass shaped pad with flexible, elastic gathers. In 1976, they made the fateful decision to test market the new shaped design under a second brand name – an approach that was consistent with their
“new benefit, new brand” philosophy of the time. Since it was an expensive diaper to make, they launched it at a 30% premium price over Pampers and called it Luvs.
Although research indicated this cost differential strongly supported a separate-brand strategy, immediately upon launch and national expansion, Luvs began to cannibalize Pampers’ sales.
1984 was a watershed year. In the largest single construction project in P&G history, they invested over $500 million to re-platforming their systems. More than 100 lines worldwide were converted to produce Pampers “Blue Ribbon,” a new fitted diaper with a thicker core and softer topsheet. But it was Pampers Ultra, with more product innovations since the brand’s inception, that ultimately helped regain market share leadership from Huggies and reestablish Pampers as the #1 share brand in the market.
Inspired by Babies
By 1990, P&G had been learning about baby care for more than three decades and had heavily invested in market research and focus group efforts around the world to understand what moms wanted for their babies. They created superior products and then worked to improve them --