Magazine article Marketing

Boom or Bust for Gossard Launch?

Magazine article Marketing

Boom or Bust for Gossard Launch?

Article excerpt

As it loses its flagship brand, Wonderbra, to rival Playtex, Gossard unveils the Ultrabra -- and fires the opening shot in the bra wars

Handing over your biggest brand, number one in the market, to your rival is the sort of thing that makes marketing directors wake up in the early hours in a cold sweat. But the nightmare scenario is set to be the real-life marketing battle of 1994 as Gossard is forced to surrender its flagship Wonderbra brand to Playtex.

Gossard has already come out of its corner fighting in the bra wars. This week it unveils its replacement for Wonderbra, the Ultrabra, to the trade. A heavyweight advertising campaign and new marketing strategy are in the pipeline, supported by a significant increase in budgets.

And to make for an even battle, Playtex is adding its own spice to the Wonderbra brand, which has been marketed by Gossard for 30 years, by relaunching it and extending the range. Playtex promises to spend |pounds~2m on marketing and advertising "the one and only Wonderbra".

The bust-enhancing plunge-bra sector may seem an unlikely battlefield, but it is one which has grown around 400% in volume over the past few years, and is now worth over |pounds~15m.

Darling of the women's magazine feature pages, the Wonderbra has become an icon, lauded for its bust-boosting properties. Its image as the fashion bra has been carefully honed by Gossard and it is the company's flagship brand.

But the Wonderbra licence is owned by Canadelle Inc, a sister company to Playtex. Both are owned by US conglomerate Sara Lee, which acquired Playtex in 1991. It was only a matter of time before Sara Lee reclaimed the licence for Playtex. The official handover is at the end of the year.

The sting in the tail for Gossard is that is should lose the Wonderbra just as it has begun to see phenomenal success with the brand, after almost 30 years of slow sales. Until 1991, only 11 million Wonderbras had been sold, now the company claims to shift 22,000 units a week.

Few can envy Mark Pilkington's task as marketing director of Gossard. It's his job to continue marketing the Wonderbra brand until December, and he cannot initiate any consumer marketing for Ultrabra until January.

Yet Pilkington is confident that the Ultrabra is more than a replacement for the loss of the Wonderbra franchise.

"It's a completely new product, so it's unfair to make any comparisons with the Wonderbra," says Pilkington. "But Gossard has always been the name associated with bust-enhancements, and we intend to keep it that way. …

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