Against the ‚Tide‘ – The launch of Persil in North America | MTP e.V.

The Henkel family business was founded in 1876. Today, with its historical headquarters in Düsseldorf, the detergent manufacturer Henkel has a market-leading position in over 120 nations and can proudly present itself as the European market leader not only in the detergent sector. The following is an excerpt from a presentation by Andreas Hartleb, which was held for economics students.

There is no direct path in a career.

„After the 10th grade I didn’t know what to do“ Hartleb’s first words introducing himself, began his presentation. Today he is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Laundry and Home Care at Henkel and shows his path from his present perspective. When he completed his training to become a butcher, he knew one thing he didn’t want to do: be a butcher!  That’s why he went back to college and finished his studies in physical education. Considering his career chances, Hartleb then started to study economics and business administration, showing that the direct path is not the only one in today’s world.

Purpose. Vision. Mission.

What does Henkel stand for? Hartleb implements measures at the company in various ways. There are many areas that need to be considered in any business. Henkel´s purpose is to create more sustainable value worldwide. In order to achieve this goal, there must be a vision to develop unique innovations and technologies. Thanks to a passionate team and its high focus, Henkel is regarded worldwide as one of the most trusted partners in relevant markets. Generally, for its customers, a brand stands for performance and convenience. According to Hartleb, this is what Henkel wants to stand for.

The launch of ‘Persil’ in North America

Based on its high profitability, Henkel decided to launch the Persil brand in the USA. A market launch is never an easy decision, Hartleb thought, because there are many reasons not to do it. The main reason for Henkel was Tide, a major competitor in North America. In previous years, challenges were made but failed. „We needed to pitch“ Hartleb said throughout the entire presentation. There had to be a surprise effect on the US market with which Tide could not compete.

All about the colours

In the beginning, Henkel faced a major problem – the green colour of its product. Surveys had shown that Americans considered the green liquid to be a dishwashing product. So, instead of the original green liquid in transparent bottles, they changed the product into blue. In comparison, the colour blue stands for cleanliness, which was adopted directly by the Americans. Confirmed by a leading international test institute, the 2 in 1 from Persil finally had a shot against Tide. With a convincing „whitens whites“ and „smells great“ Persil was able to win over customers from Tide. The retail launch strategy with the Walmart supermarket as a partner had a significant impact on the overseas laundry business.

New campaign in the USA

„What’s cleaner than clean? ProClean! The memorable phrase is well-known to Americans. Building a character around the new product created a high level of awareness for Henkel on the American market. It was the American actor Peter Hermann who played this character and gave the product a face. After that, Henkel produced several advertisements with Peter Hermann. One of the major projects was the Superbowl campaign, which achieved an enormous amount of sales and awareness.

„As a challenger you simply have to attack“, one of the last things Hartleb said in his presentation, demonstrating that the launch of a product needs considerable thought and a lot of work and planning. Henkel has made a very clear statement on the US market and we know that a lot more is to come.


Chiara Möller
GS Münster


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