Clean Slate: Henkel Launches a New U.S. Detergent

When German manufacturing giant Henkel partnered with Walmart to bring its flagship laundry detergent, Persil, to the American marketplace, it knew it needed not only a new brand but an attention-getting marketing campaign to appeal to U.S. consumers. Enter Persil ProClean, a detergent that invites customers to “experience a premium clean,” and The Professional, a debonair, stain-fighting superhero who’s ready to tackle even the toughest laundry challenges.

The launch of the product, and the creation of The Professional, were made possible in part by two real-life professionals who are on the rise – Stephanie Paasch '12 M.B.A. and Karen Satterlie '13 M.B.A. Both played key roles in the launch of the new brand, taking on responsibility for everything from determining the product assortment and positioning to developing the advertising campaign and communication points. Paasch was primarily involved in the TV campaign development as well as building out Persil’s digital strategy and presence online, while Satterlie focused on visual communication, leading the graphic development for the product labels as well as all in-store merchandising.

Both graduates took similar paths to positions at Henkel’s U.S. headquarters in Arizona by interning for the company while getting their MBAs at St. Thomas. Paasch interned with the Henkel sales team as a category analyst for the Target account and then moved directly into a marketing role on the Purex brand after graduation, where she worked for about two years before moving on to her role on the Persil team. Satterlie interned in Henkel’s Minneapolis field sales office as a category analyst but knew she wanted to move into brand management after she finished her degree so she applied for, and got, a position at corporate headquarters working as an assistant brand manager.

Although Persil ProClean just arrived on Walmart shelves in early March, both Paasch and Satterlie note that the product and its branding consistently tested well with consumers. “We saw purchase intent increase even more after consumers used the product,” Paasch said. “Which means that, once consumers tried the product, they loved it.”


The goal, of course, is for Persil to be embraced in homes across America. The team behind the brand hopes to get there partly through strategic ads placed on TV, in print and online that offer up not only a solution to laundry problems but a chance to laugh at The Professional, the tongue-in-cheek superhero who swoops in to take on emergencies such as a frosting stain at a child’s birthday party and a tragic cabernet spill on a yacht. “The campaign we’ve developed is unique and refreshing for the laundry category,” Paasch said. “We currently have three TV spots and each serves a unique purpose, whether it’s introducing consumers to Persil and The Professional, relating to consumers who have experienced similar stain disasters or just to entertain.” So far, response to the campaign and to the product is overwhelming positive, particularly on social media platforms, where there is a concerted push to get customers “pumped for Persil.”

The experience of launching a product into a new market was excellent training for Paasch and Satterlie, who both gained hands-on experience throughout the 18-month process of developing the brand and campaigns. “Because Henkel is a global company, there are a lot of opportunities to collaborate with colleagues around the world,” Paasch said. “So it was a tremendous opportunity for growth.” Satterlie adds, “I learn something new every day – every person gets to be a big contributor to the projects they’re on.”