Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Teaching Pet-Friendly Homes New Cleaning Tricks

IN “Dog Whisperer” with Cesar Millan, now in its sixth season on the National Geographic Channel, several episodes have featured vacuum cleaners that send dogs into a barking frenzy.

With tactics like placing their food bowls next to vacuums that are not in use, Mr. Millan helped reverse the behavior.Now Swiffer, the 11-year-old Procter & Gamble brand, is hiring Mr. Millan to help with a different sort of behavior modification: getting consumers to forgo traditional floor cleaning devices and buy Swiffer products.

“Mops and brooms are really what we’re going after,” said Marchoe Northern, a Swiffer brand manager, adding that women were the target consumers. “It’s really about habit adaption at first — getting the Swiffer in her house — and then habit formation.”

“I was using the Swiffer long before they approached me, so for me it was a no-brainer,” Mr. Millan said in an interview by phone. “I came into my marriage with a pack of dogs, and my wife said she didn’t want the smell in the house, so I’m the one who cleans the house.”

Swiffer estimates that about half of the consumers it wants to reach have pets. That is consistent with findings from Packaged Facts, a market research company, indicating 49.7 percent of American households included a dog or cat in 2009, up from 45.4 percent in 2003.

Mr. Millan will be featured in online marketing, including providing dog tips on the Swiffer Web site and its Facebook page, but there are no immediate plans for him to appear in print or television advertising. For the next several months, he will primarily promote the SweeperVac, which sells for $39.99 and combines Swiffer disposable electrostatic cloths with a rechargeable upright vacuum.

“The vacuum allows you to pick up big stuff like kibble, and the Swiffer cloth on the bottom picks up hair,” Ms. Northern said.

In a television commercial produced by the Kaplan Thaler Group, part of the Publicis Groupe, that had its premiere this month, a woman discards her broom outside.

“Switch to the new and improved Swiffer SweeperVac, and you’ll dump your old broom,” a voiceover says. “But don’t worry, he’ll find someone else.” At that, the broom and a pink flamingo in the yard begin to sway to “Who’s That Lady” by the Isley Brothers.

Inside the kitchen, meanwhile, the SweeperVac inhales kibble near a dog bowl, making it the third of five current Swiffer spots that highlight pets. The two others feature the original Swiffer removing hair near a dog bed and the Swiffer Duster tackling cat hair.

Sales of Swiffer products, which also include a wet-mop system, totaled $325.4 million in the 52 weeks ended Jan. 24, according to Information Resources, whose figures exclude Wal-Mart. Swiffer spent $95 million on advertising for the first nine months of 2009, an increase of 21 percent over the $78.3 million spent in the same period in 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence.While cleaning brands have customized products for pets for decades, with Arm & Hammer introducing a carpet deodorizer with a “pet fresh” scent in 1981, marketing efforts are booming as more people consider cats and dogs part of the family and a beagle is less likely to be found in a doghouse than on the sofa.

Cameron Woo, publisher of The Bark magazine, said advertisements from cleaning brands had grown in the “double digits” in each of the last three years, growth he attributed both to increasing “germ phobia” and demand for less toxic cleaners. (One advertiser, PawSafe, markets a toilet cleaner free of harsh chemicals, so a dog can drink out of the commode more safely.)

Several vacuum brands offer models for pet owners, but none as extensively as Bissell, the 134-year-old cleaning products company whose offerings are sold at Petco and PetSmart.

Bissell’s five models of pet vacuums include the Pet Hair Eraser and the SpotBot Pet Deep Cleaner, a compact steam cleaner to be placed over an animal mishap to clean it unattended.

Bissell’s ShedAway, a metal-toothed tool at the end of a vacuum attachment, draws pet hair into the vacuum so it does not fall onto rugs and furniture. Another product, the Drool Cleaner, is for sliding doors and windows where pets keep watch exuberantly: a spray container has a small attached brush and squeegee to, according to the Bissell Web sit, cut “through drool, smudges and paw prints.”

Bissell, which also advertises on Petfinder.com and has a pet section on its Web site, runs an annual Most Valuable Pet contest, where pets’ photos are entered for a chance to be featured on Pet Hair Eraser vacuum packaging and win $10,000 for an animal charity of the pet owner’s choice. In 2008 and 2009, the contest drew more than 100,000 entries. We try to think of ourselves as pet owners and pet lovers, and then we become better pet marketers,” said James A. Krzeminski, executive vice president and chief customer officer of Bissell Homecare.

As part of Swiffer’s partnership with Mr. Millan, the brand will be featured on his Facebook page, which has more than 195,000 fans.

Mr. Millan said that in yet-to-be filmed videos on Swiffer’s Web site, he will demonstrate how to use Swiffer products to clean floors without agitating pets.

“To me it’s how can I help people make this cleaning tool pet-friendly,” Mr. Millan said. “A lot of people who put the dog somewhere else before they clean up don’t realize how to have a more harmonious relationship with the tools.

“Dogs have very sensitive ears, and I don’t want my pack to get nervous about this new tool that I’m using.”


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