Why is Tide Popular?

Tyler Cowen wants to know:

Eli Lehrer informs me that Tide has a high market share even though it is more expensive than most other brands. This source says the market share of Tide is about forty-four percent, with the sum total of all Proctor and Gamble products (Gain and Cheer are two others) accounting for about two-thirds of the market. Is Tide so good? Does Tide really “know fabric best”? I couldn’t name one supposed feature of the product and I’ve been buying detergent my whole life. I couldn’t even tell you what brand I buy. Maybe it is Tide.

Having read the occasional issue of Consumer Reports, I know that Tide consistently is a star. In fact price does seem to matter, and commenter Kip Esquire gives us an insight to the chemical industry and the money they spend on making these products better:

INTERESTINGLY, although Gain is a midtier brand, it draws on some of the chemistry developed for P&G’s premium Tide brand. For example, Grime says the powdered variety of Gain now contains a proprietary, quick-dissolving alcohol sulfate surfactant developed with Shell Chemical and launched in 2002 in Tide. And Gain powder with bleach contains nonanoylbenzene sulfonate, the high-performance peroxygen bleach activator long used in Tide with Bleach.

Likewise, Gain Fabric Enhancer is a new fabric softener that uses diethylester dimethyl ammonium chloride, the same softener active found in P&G’s premium Downy brand.

Of course, P&G reserves some technologies for Tide and for Ariel, its premium European brand. In France, for example, the company recently introduced Ariel Style, which Grime calls the first detergent to offer a fabric shape retention benefit. The technology, called Fiberflex, was developed in partnership with one of P&G’s chemical suppliers.

The business and science behind this I found surprisingly interesting:

Also being introduced in P&G’s flagship brands is a new enzyme combination of pectate lyase and mannanase. Grime says this combination targets the pectins, mannins, and guars that are present in many food stains, either from the food itself or from thickeners used with them. Not only are these substances difficult to remove, they leave residues after washing that can act as “magnets” and attract other stains during wear, he says.

Another premium brand innovation from P&G is an ethoxylated quaternized sulfated amine that the Tide and Ariel franchises are incorporating as a cleaning polymer. According to Grime, this technology improves cleaning performance on two fronts: through improved soil suspension capability and improved removal of outdoor soil stains, a perennial laundry problem.

But then, I’m a geek.

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4 Responses to “Why is Tide Popular?”

  1. on 24 Jan 2008 at 2:07 pm ChrisB

    Anyone else find it funny that the detergent spokesperson is named Grime?

  2. on 24 Jan 2008 at 2:28 pm Dalia

    The name of the spokeperson is a bit ironic. I never thought about the chemistry going on behind laundry detergent. I use Tide because my mom used Tide. It’s what made my clothes last and smell good when I was younger and what I’ve come to know as an adult. Lately, I’ve been choosing my detergent based on smell and Tide wins again. The white lilac Pure Essentials smells so good that I bought some the other day with the matching Bounce sheets and I can’t even tell you what I paid for it. I guess I’m a scratch and sniff buyer now.

  3. on 24 Jan 2008 at 3:25 pm Synova

    The name probably helped him by being memorable. It is really funny, though.

  4. on 27 Jan 2008 at 11:47 pm feathers

    Interesting. But even though Tide is very good, they are other brands that are very good too. As a matter of fact I tried a eco-organic one at Costco that I really liked, but I still buy Tide. the reason on why Tide is popular is not that is better than the other ones, even if it is, but is what Dalia just mentioned, “I use Tide because my mom used Tide.”… P&G knows about brand loyalty and of course being the marketing shark they are, they really capitalize on it, as they should.

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