Higher Tide comes in to 'value' market

Tide laundry detergent, made by Procter & Gamble Co., is seen on display at the Arguello Supermarket in San Francisco.

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Kai Ryssdal: No matter which end of the economic equation you are on -- buying or selling -- these days it's all about price. Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus reported a half-billion dollar quarterly loss this morning. Might have something to do with all those $3,000 purses and $600 pairs of shoes still in the stockroom. Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart, meanwhile, have been doing brisk business. Still, some marketers are bucking the cheaper-is-better trend. Take, just for example, Procter & Gamble. It's betting it can clean up on the smaller luxuries in life, as Marketplace's Stacey Vanek-Smith explains.


STACEY VANEK-SMITH: You've already traded in fancy restaurants for mac and cheese. That trip to Italy? Looks fabulous on the Travel Channel. That new cashmere sweater? Uh, let's see what we can find in the closet.

But Procter & Gamble has a luxury proposition for tough times -- high-end Tide. Or Tide Total Care. The message in a new ad campaign: Spend a little extra taking care of the clothes you've got, because they may have to last you a while. Kevin Crociata is a marketing director with Procter & Gamble.

KEVIN CROCIATA: It actually has helped us to be in this environment when people aren't buying new clothes as often. They are taking care of them longer, and this product fits right in to those new routines that consumers are adopting because of the economic times right now.

Fashion guru Tim Gunn is the face of the campaign.

TIDE AD: Few things are more tragic than watching a fabulous essential die a slow death in the wash. Tide Total Care. It goes beyond cleaning to help keep your clothes like new.

Woolite is launching a similar campaign this week called "Find the Look, Keep the Look." Complete with their own style adviser, Stacy London. But will people really spring for premium laundry detergent?

Tide Total Care is more expensive than regular Tide, which is already one of the highest-priced detergents on the market. Retail consultant Burt Flickinger thinks consumers will respond to that value proposition.

BURT FLICKINGER: We're definitely expecting to see "value campaigns" on premium-brand products that justify their premium price points.

Flickinger says with many people's investments down the drain, they're investing in what they've already got, hoping to make it work until the economy recovers.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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