Back-to-school supply lists perennially include facial tissues which, unfortunately for Puffs, often refer to the classroom necessity as “Kleenex.”  To help Puffs make its mark and build its reputation as a back-to-school brand during this key tissue buying period, MS&L/Chicago created the “Puffs Back-to-School Design the Box Contest” as a way to get to the head of the class where the competitor is clearly teachers’ pet.  The contest invites kids in grades K-6 to illustrate and send in designs based on the theme “What I Like Best About School.”  The winning design would inspire an actual back-to-school Puffs box and the winner would receive a $25,000 scholarship and a personal computer.  To encourage teachers to make the contest part of an in-school project, a computer would also be awarded to the winner’s classroom.  The contest, coupled with the kid-designed box and other new back-to-school designs, created a reason for teachers, parents and kids to think and care about the Puffs box for back-to-school.


The challenge and opportunity was to create a program that would, over time, build an identity for Puffs as the Back-to-School brand of choice against its biggest competitor and spur a sales peak during the key back-to-school buying period.


To direct program development, we conducted research in three areas -- target audience, competition and back-to-school buying behavior -- to determine how to overcome the “Kleenex factor.”  Lesson #1 was to learn where to direct the effort (teachers? parents? kids?) and, then, to determine what message would be relevant enough to spark interest and involvement from each group.  Cliff notes of our findings follow:

  • Soft soundings with parents identified key drivers of back-to-school purchasing as: school requirements/lists (most buy exactly what is on the list); and kids’ preference (will my kids feel good bringing this particular brand the first day of school?).
  • Market data confirmed that back-to-school is the biggest selling time for facial tissues after cold/flu season.  Back-to-school purchasing begins in July, so activities needed to be timed accordingly.
  • Primary research to understand the “list” process and determine ways to begin to influence list development revealed the following:
  • Facial tissue is on the majority of lists, and Kleenex is often used as a generic term.
  • Whether or not teachers list brand names varies from school to school, as does the ability to trade a brand listing for an incentive.  Typically, though, teachers want to appear non-commercial.
  • The closer the incentive is to the teacher, teacher’s class or school, the more appealing it becomes.

Based on these findings, our primary objective was to generate awareness and interest and increase sales of Puffs during the key back-to-school buying period.  Our report card includes: analysis of media coverage and content, quantity of contest entries to equal or exceed goal established by P&G’s contest administration company (D.L. Blair), and sales figures.


Based on our research, our strategic direction was to position parents as the key target and develop a plan that would make an immediate impact with consumers.  Teachers would be included on a more subtle level to help establish recognition for Puffs as a classroom helper.


Once conceptualized and approved by the client, the program had its first test.  In order for a contest-winning design to appear on boxes for back-to-school 2000, the artwork needed to be handed in to the Puffs package designers in less than 2 months, not enough time to conduct a full-scale national contest.  The best answer in this case was to conduct the contest on a smaller scale to obtain the design for back-to-school 2000, then leverage the introduction of this first box to launch a national contest.

Wisconsin, home of the Puffs manufacturing plant, was selected for the initial statewide competition.  The home state angle was highlighted in call-to-entry media materials.  Along with consumer media relations, we generated awareness through direct mailings to teachers.  A judging event was held in Green Bay -- and when the winning design happened to be from a Green Bay-area student, a same-day pep rally was quickly planned at the winner’s school.  Contest judges, including a Green Bay Packer and the Mayor’s wife, went to the school to surprise the winner.  Enthused about the event, the Mayor made a surprise visit as well!

To create interest in the back-to-school boxes during the national rollout, a box design unveiling event and contest announcement was held at a Cincinnati Art Museum.  Area children, donning bow-ties and jewels befitting a gallery opening, were in attendance as the first ever kid-designed box was unveiled.  The Green Bay winner was on hand to receive her scholarship prize and autograph Puffs boxes for attendees.  The Cincinnati event also launched the first national contest which ended in December 2000.

Still to come are media relations surrounding the winner of the national contest, after which we will graduate to the 2001 program.


The Puffs Design the Box program received high marks in all subjects and exceeded the goals established at the beginning of the year.  

Sales: P&G figures show a 39 percent case volume increase over the previous year. 

Contest Results:  The statewide contest generated more than 4,000 entries; (which was 5 times greater than expected); national contest resulted in more than 10,000 entries (triple the number expected)

Media impressions: To date, the Puffs program has generated more than 30 million impressions (media relations for 2001 winner begin in July) 

NAI: An internal message audit shows that key messages were delivered in 100 percent of print and broadcast placements. 
The Puffs Design the Box program is on its way to a gold star!