How Tupperware got heir online makeover

There are few products less associated with the New Economy than Tupperware (TUP, info). It’s not e-enabled or technology-enhanced, and its usage relies on the assumption that people actually still cook meals at home where leftovers don’t just go back in the take-out container in which the meal was delivered.

But Orlando, Florida-based Tupperware has taken its famous party online as part of the firm’s first advertising effort in decades. The new campaign, called Integrated Direct Access, includes banner ads, 30-second flash spots, partnerships with America Online (AOL, info) and iVillage (IVIL, info), as well as mall kiosks and a presence on TV home-shopping networks. These efforts all represent a move to get tech-savvy Tupperware fans to continue buying from home but in a different format from the parties frequented by their mothers.

“They came to the realization that the Internet does not necessarily mean conflict,” says Jim Nail, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research (FORR, info). “It was a critical insight for them.” They now also appealed to a broader audience and included even promotional materials to have their customers take career assessment tests to see if promoting Tupperware would be their cup of tea.

In the past, Tupperware was concerned that advertising–either online or offline–would frustrate customers more than it would generate sales, as they may have become interested in buying but might not have known how to find their local salesperson or had the time to attend a party. “It has seen Rubbermaid eat away at its business. A lot of women do not want to go to a Tupperware party,” Nail says. “So, online is a perfect fit.”

The ad efforts coincided with the firm’s launch of a program that allows its 85,000 salespeople to create their own Websites and get a commission on Internet sales. Companywide, the firm attributes part of its 28 percent rise in U.S. third-quarter 2000 sales to the online initiatives.

Laura Mitrovich, a program manager of Internet market strategies planning services for the Boston-based Yankee Group, says Tupperware’s status as an established firm and brand gives it leeway newer dot-coms don’t have. “They can afford to go online, even if it takes 18 months to figure it out. They do not have the pressure there that the venture capital will go away in the next six months,” she says.

Both Nail and Mitrovich agree that Tupperware needs a more hip image, and that the Internet may be the way to get it. By linking with existing online presences like AOL, which have many Tupperware customers as users, the company won’t lose current business while courting new consumers.

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