The Dial Corporation

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The Dial Corporation

15501 N. Dial Boulevard
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
Telephone: (480) 754-3425
Fax: (480) 754-1098
Web site:



In 2001 Dial, the Dial Corporation's mainstay brand in the soap market for more than 50 years, was the only brand with an all-antibacterial line of products. The challenge in promoting it was that focus-group research showed that many consumers did not think they needed their soap to be antibacterial. In its maiden voyage as Dial's ad agency, Austin, Texas-based GSD&M came up with a high-impact national TV campaign called "You're Not as Clean as You Think." With the goal of increasing sales by reinvigorating the public's interest in the brand's soaps and body washes, the campaign was released in January 2002.

GSD&M created two television commercials to kick off the campaign, which had a budget of somewhere between $18 and $25 million. The effort not only used the tagline "You're not as clean as you think," but also resurrected the slogan "Aren't you glad you use Dial?" One spot began with a close-up, from a toilet bowl's point of view, of a thirsty dog lapping up a drink of toilet water. The dog's owner then arrived home to have her face licked enthusiastically by the pooch. This spot, as well as a second one that took place in a gym locker room and featured an inadvertently shared towel, employed gross-out humor. They were, however, constructed carefully to keep the message up front and offense to a minimum.

The campaign hit its mark. Sales of Dial-brand products increased 5 percent in the first half of 2003, placing the company more solidly in the number two position behind Dove's Unilever. USA Today's Ad Track polls in 2003 showed good numbers for the Dial commercials, particularly with regard to women, an audience Dial had hoped to woo. Dial retained the "You're Not as Clean as You Think" theme in 2004, using it in a cross-promotion with the movie Shrek 2, a partnership that the company described as successful.


The Dial Corporation's signature brand was established in the mid-1940s, when meatpacker Armour & Company developed an unlikely new product, deodorant soap. It named the new soap "Dial" to underscore claims that the product supplied 24-hour protection from odors caused by bacteria. The soap was introduced in 1948 with a full-page advertisement in the Chicago Tribune that featured a unique attention-getting element: it was printed with scented ink. Dial soap was an instant hit, and by the 1950s it had become the best-selling deodorant soap in the United States. In 1953 the company's famous advertising slogan, "Aren't you glad you use Dial? Don't you wish everybody did?" was born.

The Dial brand was expanded beyond soap to include other deodorant products and shaving creams. In 1970 the brand was passed from one unusual corporate parent to another when Canadian bus company Greyhound bought Armour and moved the company to a new headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, under the moniker Armour-Dial. In 1987 the bus line was sold off. Two years later Liquid Dial soap, the first antibacterial soap of its kind, was introduced. The product was so well received that it spawned many imitators. In 1991 the company took the name of its best-known brand and became the Dial Corporation.

The Dial Corporation struggled in the 1990s, as competition increased and sales flattened. In the late 1990s it employed a campaign themed "Doesn't That Feel Better." The TV spots were created by agency DDB Worldwide, a subsidiary of the advertising conglomerate the Omnicom Group. Set to Judy Garland's rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the spot was composed of black-and-white images of a child washing with the bar soap. The voice-over said, "You can get there and feel clean, healthy, restored," and then followed with the tagline "Doesn't that feel better?" The campaign garnered little attention and failed to make any sales breakthroughs. When Herb Baum, formerly of Hasbro and Quaker State, took the reigns as CEO of Dial in fall 2000, his task was to streamline the operation in preparation for a change of ownership that was planned to take place in 2004, when Dial would become a subsidiary of the German consumer-products company Henkel KGaA. Austin, Texas-based agency GSD&M Advertising, which, like DDB, was part of the Omnicom Group, won the $18 to $25 million Dial Corp. account in June 2001. The maverick agency developed a campaign that made consumers and industry observers take notice and that in the process even managed to reinvigorate the old slogan "Aren't you glad you use Dial?"


Young mothers and other young bacteria-conscious consumers were the focus of the new "You're Not as Clean as You Think" campaign. "We have a 40-plus group that has been very loyal," explained Steve Tooker, general manager of Dial's personal care division, in a 2003 USA Today article. "They grew up with 'Aren't you glad you use Dial?' What we were missing along the way was picking up the younger group and the younger mom." GSD&M's memorable TV spots had to walk a fine line between funny and too gross. Male audiences would appreciate the bathroom humor, but the commercials also needed to avoid offending young female household buyers, in whom Dial wanted to instill concern regarding unseen dirt and bacteria.

Focus groups revealed that the widely recognized gold bar of Dial soap was often thought of as a masculine product. The company felt that the TV spots' shock factor communicated the idea that their soap was essential for cleaning as well as protection and would resonate with mothers in particular. Although Dial asserted that it was not trying to make the brand more youthful, in 2004 it chose a kids' movie, Shrek 2, the sequel to the hugely successful animated feature about an ogre named Shrek, for the brand's first movie promotion. TV spots featured the characters from the film demonstrating the theme "You're Not as Clean as You Think." These spots may have been aimed at moms and tots alike, but the packaging, which included a limited-edition ogre-shaped dispenser, was clearly meant to appeal to children's purchasing influence on their parents.


According to global research firm Mintel, from 2000 to 2003 more than 250 antibacterial products were available for sale in the North American market. Dial may have invented the antibacterial segment, but by 2002 it was running second in the $950 million bar-soap category as a whole. At 16 percent it was well behind the 25 percent share boasted by Unilever's Dove soap. Those figures, compiled by market-information firm Information Resources, Inc., omitted Wal-Mart, a significant Dial retailer, but there was still cause for concern. Research company TNS CMR reported that Dove was outspending Dial as well. In the first nine months of 2001 Dove's media spending was $29 million, compared to $11.5 million for Dial.


In 1971 the fact that Chicago and New York had been centers of the advertising industry almost since there was an ad industry did not phase the six University of Texas graduates who started GSD&M Advertising as a way to stay and work in their beloved Austin. The agency's revenues grew in a little more than 30 years to $1.5 billion. GSD&M won some of the country's most sought-after clients, including the king of the discount retailers, Wal-Mart. The company eventually included a Chicago office. GSD&M became part of media giant the Omnicom Group in 1998.

A number of other soap manufacturers served as challengers to Dial's variety of personal-cleansing products. Colgate-Palmolive's Irish Spring bar and Softsoap liquid were top sellers in the late 1990s and the first few years of the new millennium. With longstanding loyalty among consumers, conglomerate Procter & Gamble's Ivory and Safeguard brands were formidable competitors as well. By 2001 the glut of competitors had forced the midsize Dial Corp. to set itself apart by getting creative in a normally unexciting advertising category.


In 2001 Dial was unique in that it was the only brand with an all-antibacterial line, but research showed that many consumers did not think that they needed their soap to be antibacterial. Rich Tlapek, a vice president and group creative director at GSD&M, described the dilemma in a 2002 issue of Advertising Age. "In focus groups, people would all say they thought they were clean or clean enough. That left us in a difficult situation of how do we increase the relevance [of the antibacterial position] if people think they're already clean?" GSD&M won the Dial account in 2001 with a plan to use high-impact TV spots that would remind consumers just how germ-ridden they might be on any given day. The budget for "You're Not as Clean as You Think" was reported to be between $18 million and $25 million, with almost half of it spent on testing the campaign in order to ensure efficacy once it was released in January 2002.

Two 30-second TV commercials ran on prime-time network and cable channels, primarily during sitcoms but also during some morning shows. The first spot opened with a close-up of a thirsty dog enjoying a drink from a toilet. Upon hearing the arrival of his owner, the dog ran downstairs to greet her with an enthusiastic face licking. The second spot took place in a gym locker room. A sweaty man wiped not only his armpits but also his privates with a towel and then replaced it where he had found it. A second man, who had just come from the sauna, took the same towel to dry his face. Both spots were capped off with a voice-over saying, "You're not as clean as you think," which was then followed by Dial's old slogan, "Aren't you glad you use Dial?"

Dial and GSD&M were aware that they ran the risk of turning people off. "We definitely don't want to be in the fear-mongering business," said Bill Puentes, director of marketing at Dial, to Advertising Age. "That's why we took a humorous approach." The goals of the campaign were to grab consumers' attention, communicate why people needed Dial products, and reinforce the brand's national presence. The spots were designed to hook viewers with likable yet cutting-edge content while also maximizing brand recognition by drawing upon Dial's advertising heritage.

Other spots followed in 2003, expanding on the same theme. In one a man in a pool heard the boy swimming next to him tell his mother that he no longer needed to use the restroom. Another spot showed a bus that had been transporting nudists to a retreat; after it dropped them off, it changed its sign and took on riders for a garden tour—without a cleaning in between. Bolstered by the success of the campaign, Dial undertook its first movie cross-promotion, forging an affiliation with the 2004 animated film Shrek 2. TV spots featured the lovable but not-too-tidy cartoon ogre Shrek extracting wax from his ear; the substance was later mistaken by his friend, Donkey, for hair gel. The tagline remained essentially the same: "You're not as clean as you think you are." During the movie's highly successful run Dial sold Shrek-themed products, including bottles of Liquid Dial featuring pumps shaped like Shrek and Donkey and ogre-apple scented body wash.


The Dial Corporation and GSD&M had a winner with "You're Not as Clean as You Think." Brand sales grew 5 percent in the first half of 2003, and the company gained ground on market-share leader Unilever. The campaign received positive press from both ad-industry publications and the mainstream media, and consumer brand awareness increased. USA Today's Ad Track poll reported good numbers for the commercials in 2003. The newspaper surveyed those familiar with the campaign, and 25 percent of these respondents said that they liked the spots "a lot," which was above the Ad Track average of 21 percent. Perhaps more important was the fact that 26 percent of women, a key target of the campaign, liked the commercials "a lot." In an August 2004 issue of USA Today, Tom Ennis, Dial's director of marketing, said that the Shrek 2 cross-promotion was good for the movie studio as well as Dial, stating that the promotion had "overachieved its sales estimates."


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                                         Simone Samano

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The Dial Corporation

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