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When Branding Brilliance Inspires Imitation

Every brand can create an innovation that also solves a problem. Sometimes, that problem lies behind closed doors where ladies would rather leave the bathroom smelling like roses. Do you already have an idea of what product this is? It’s Poo-Pouri! A brilliant, yet simple solution that allowed ladies to feel comfortable using the restroom (a scent saver during tummy issues). Their branding is what placed the product to the top charts — selling over $4 million bottles shortly after their launch.

Branding innovation at it’s best

What made Poo-Pouri so popular? Aside from the fact it solved a pretty important issue and did it in a way that made it easy to talk about, it was their uber-clever marketing that took this shinning star straight to the top. Brilliant commercials using potty humor and wit, along with fun visuals helped women remove the embarrassment of leaving a too-fragrant bathroom behind them.

Every element to their brand conspire to that end, succeeding in making women feel they could be completely relieved of embarrassment in a multitude of real life situations, as you can see in their advertisement below.

You can’t deny that after seeing that video, you too would be able to attend a fancy party and leave no trail behind… in the bathroom. The voice, setting, and wardrobe as well as the wording of the script all support the brand and it’s message. It’s hard to achieve, but they sure nailed it! No wonder it’s been viewed nearly 40 million times on YouTube!

The copycats emerge

As soon as Poo-Pouri rose to the top, others started to create their own versions, from a make-your-own using essential oils to one replica that came a little too close to the whole brand experience. While it’s common to see competing brands emerge once a company is dominating the market, usually they try to put their own spin on a product, or take it to the next level. However, that’s not always the case. Here’s a great example:

The setting transitions, packaging, potty-humor are so close to the original Poo-Pouri brand, that this emulation earned V.I.Poo (an Air Wick / Reckitt Benckiser company) a lawsuit from the woman-owned Poo-Pouri business. “This is about protecting the creativity we’ve used to build an iconic brand. It’s not fair for such a large company to come in and copy what we’ve done when they have the resources to create their own brand and own image,” said the founder and CEO of Poo-Pourri, Suzy Batiz.

It can be alarming for an innovator to see competitors try to tap into their creative niche, but it is the nature of the free market. However, once a brand establishes credibility as the original, customers usually stay loyal to that product. Especially when the price-point is a few cents less. A perfect example of brand loyalty towards the original is found on the Amazon reviews. Poo-Pouri has over 8,000 reviews and 4.8 out of 5 stars. While V.I. Poo has slightly over 300 and 4 stars. When it comes to sales, Reckitt Benckiser reported $13 billion in global sales for 2015 — out of that amount, it’s hard to tell what came from V.I.Poo. Poo-Pouri had close to $40 million.

When branding stays authentic and true, the focus becomes on the customers, not a purely sales-driven approach.

Nicte Creative Design
Nicte Cuevas, Principal of Nicte Creative Design, empowers mission-driven businesses through strategic design & branding. Nicte has applied this when working with Adobe Spark and Twitter Business, Dogs on Deployment and Purina, Girl Scouts, The Houston Zoo and The Contemporary Arts Museum. Her excellence in communication design & marketing has been recognized by multiple national / international awards, including a coveted feature in Graphic Design USA's People to Watch.

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