"A big part of what we've been trying to do since we purchased the company in January, which included the Today Sponge, is to take what is a great product and re-brand it," says Joann Armitage, Synova Healthcare executive vice president, sales and marketing. "The branding that we inherited is pretty close to what was done in the '80s when the product first came out."
The new branding, including a new logo, debuted on the landing page of the todaysponge.com and in print ads running in the July and August issues of Cosmopolitan and Shape magazines, she said. The ad will run in Parents in August, Fitness in September and Working Mother in October. The new look features bright colors and stylish cartoon women discussing the Today Sponge, with the copy "Enjoy Spontaneity, Confidence and Control."
The old Web site--which is what the landing page leads to--is still accessible but is being updated, and the new site will be online by the fourth week in July. It will be less text-heavy and easier to navigate, Armitage says. Horsham, Pa.-based pharmaceutical ad agency Dudnyk is handling creative duties while Dorland Global in Philadelphia is the AOR for PR.
A consumer-directed contest, handled by Dorland, will be added to the mix in the fall, Armitage adds. TV and radio are possibilities in 2008. The marketing plan is unique because it targets such a wide-ranging age group--women from ages 21 to 44, she says.
At some point in future marketing, there could be a reference to TV sitcom Seinfeld character Elaine Benes' hoarding of the product. "You just never know," Armitage coyly tells Marketing Daily.
In the iconic episode, No. 113--entitled "The Sponge," which aired Dec. 7, 1995--Elaine wants to have sex with her new boyfriend, Billy, but reconsiders upon hearing that her cherished birth-control method, the Today Sponge, has been taken off the market. From the episode came the phrase "sponge-worthy."
Armitage partly attributes the buzz surrounding that episode as the reason that research shows there is 90% aided awareness of what the Today Sponge is. However, only 20% realize that it's back on the shelves after a lengthy absence. The product was discontinued in 1995 because American Home Products, now Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which made Today, discovered a contamination problem at the plant that made the sponges. Production was discontinued, although the sponge was a leading contraceptive.
Allendale Pharmaceuticals bought the patent and factory and, after updating the factory to conform to new FDA regulations, the product quietly returned to the shelves in the U.S. late in 2005. In January 2007, Allendale was acquired by Synova Healthcare, Inc.
Synova executives attended the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology meeting in May, where the company "re-introduced" the Today Sponge to healthcare professionals nationwide. "Many ob/gyns were not even aware the product is again available," Armitage says.
The Today Sponge is now widely available in the United States and Canada at major retailers such as CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Target and Wal-Mart. Synova expects to add approximately 1,800 new points of distribution during the next two months, including Brooks Eckerd Pharmacy and Duane Reade.