How do you get 100,000 college students excited about laundry?  You make it free.  How do you get them excited about a new laundry product?  You do their laundry for free and while they wait for it, you have “mom” talk to them about caring for their clothes.  The Wrinkle Free Laundry Week program, conducted by MS&L on behalf of Procter & Gamble, utilized a guerilla marketing program and word of mouth campaign to generate a buzz about Downy Wrinkle Releaser among college students.  The program measurably increased sales and consumer awareness, and incentivized students to pass on the word to others.  Imagine that, students emailing mom and their friends about what they learned in college … how to do their laundry!  The program’s final awareness and trial numbers exceeded all client expectations.  


Our challenge was to launch P&G’s new Downy Wrinkle Releaser (DWR), a spray-on product that removes wrinkles from clothes without ironing.  To use DWR you spray the product on a garment, then tug and smooth the garment with your hands and hang it to dry – voila, the wrinkles are gone.  As this is completely different from the typical ironing routine, one of our key challenges was to create a new consumer habit. Additionally, ensuring people understood and adapted to this new habit would be essential for the overall success of the product; thus any program that we developed would need an educational demonstration as its foundation.  In order to educate and create this new habit, we would also need to convince a group of core consumers to become evangelists for the product and help diffuse the messages as well as establish their expectations of this product. 


In order to learn more about the college audience’s lifestyle, clothing care habits and influencers, as well as how they pass information and learn about new products, we used MRI and Simmons data and worked with sister-agency MediaVest Research to conduct proprietary focus group research.

Participants were consumers likely to try a new product with little or no encouragement. We discovered that early adopter college students have several things in common: they are viewed as leaders; they have a broad and active social network; they seek information and share it with others; they value personal appearance and believe clothes can describe who you are and give you confidence. We dubbed this group “Instant Messengers.” 

Instant Messengers change their clothes several times a day and do not have time for laundry or ironing but they “hate wrinkles” and still defer to their mothers for clothing advice.  They are inherently skeptical and don’t believe product claims unless one of their friends or family members tells them about it or they see it for themselves.  However, once someone they trust recommends the product, they will try it and share it with their friends and family.  

In terms of potential word of mouth and information-sharing opportunities, we learned they live on the Net and are check e-mail throughout the day.  For events that are important to them, they read their campus paper.


The research indicated that demonstrations and direct consumer education would be important elements for success. And strong product results on casual clothes would mean college students are a perfect target audience.  College students also do a large amount of laundry, but they have not fully developed their clothing care regimen yet.

Unique to the group is the fact that their laundry is done in a communal environment, making campus laundry rooms a perfect setting to introduce DWR and get the buzz going. Because they are newly out of the nest, and defer to mom about clothing care we utilized elements such as “Mom”-like demonstrators in the program that would instill a comfort-level with using DWR.  A web-based component into the program capitalized on the Internet as a main source for information and communication between college students and their friends and family. 

With research as our foundation, we developed a three-part strategy: reach college students’ influencers, conduct experiential marketing where they are most receptive to DWR messages, and provide them with currency to pass the information to friends via the internet and word of mouth.


Specific percentage results were outlined for each objective and are detailed in the Evaluation section

  • Identify potential early adopters on college campuses
  • Provide early adopters on college campuses with an educational product experience
  • Generate positive word of mouth on college campuses and encourage purchase intent
  • Build a relationship with students that exists beyond the laundry room demonstrations by driving them to the Downy Wrinkle Releaser website,


Influencer Outreach  - Based on the beta testing concept of sending out a sneak preview of software products and asking for feedback, we provided DWR to a select group of early adopters on college campuses.  Each DWR kit consisted of a custom-made box designed with a wrinkled T-shirt motif, and a targeted message, “Because mom doesn’t do your laundry any more” highlighting a common problem.  The payoff/solution was delivered, inside the box via a targeted letter and press materials, a product sample, a demonstration video and a wrinkled T-shirt meant to encourage the recipient to try DWR immediately. A product feedback card was also enclosed with space for the recipient to include the name and address of a friend they would like to have us send DWR.  Recipients were advised that a charity donation would be made if the card was returned. 

Wrinkle Free Laundry Week - A five day program where “Mom-like” demonstrators went to college laundry facilities to educate students about the do’s and don’ts of laundry care, which included DWR, while providing college students free use of laundry machines.  We infiltrated the campuses through a guerilla and viral marketing campaign with targeted messages that appealed to students’ clothing beliefs and their deference to “Mom.”  To aid in the execution of this program we partnered with Student Advantage, a college marketing company, to help us obtain permission from the colleges as well as to hire Instant Messengers on each campus to be our arms and legs. By hiring on-campus Instant Messenger representatives we were able to reach other Instant Messengers on a peer-to-peer level with messages that spoke to them. 


The influencer kits were sent out to coincide with the start of Fall Semester 2000. The student feedback from the influencer kit mailing enabled us to have a real life gauge of students’ attitudes toward DWR. At the same time students were receiving the kits, we were negotiating with college administrations to provide Wrinkle Free Laundry Week. 

WFLW was conducted on 24 college campuses in 66 dorms at 83 laundry facilities during the fall semester.  Activities on each campus occurred over a three week period, with the first two weeks being the pre-promotion leading up to the 5 day event.  

During the pre-promotion: College representatives blanketed the campuses with magnets and posters in areas like the laundry rooms, computer labs, dorm community boards and student unions as well as on phone booths, bus stations, etc.  Just prior to the “Moms” arrival, they also handed out flyers, hung doorhangers, sent e-mails, chalked sidewalks and handed out T-shirts.  

WFLW: Mom-like demonstrators were stationed in campus laundry rooms during peak laundry hours to provide students with free laundry, general laundry care information, DWR demonstrations and to let the students try DWR themselves. 

Plead Your Case for A Case Contest:  To drive traffic to the website and measure how the word of mouth spread within and outside of the campus, we developed a weekly contest which gave away a case of DWR to the student who in 50 words or less best explained why he/she needed a case of the product and how he/she would use it.  We provided students with lanyards imprinted with the website address so they could easily remember the site name.

Campus Media: To generate additional awareness for the promotion, we targeted college newspapers, television and radio stations.  Radio stations also offered a free case of DWR to conduct its own  “Plead Your Case For a Case” Contest. 


The campaign was hugely successful with all of the objectives either met or exceeded.

Measurable Objective


Identify over 100 potential early adopters on campus. 

142 early adopters were identified and sent influencer kits; 5% returned their bounceback cards.  Of those that returned the cards, 100% were pleased with the results and would recommend to friends, 50% passed on a friends name to send a kit to.

Provide a broad number of college students with education about DWR with 25% of students participating in demonstrations.

Over 100,000 students on 24 college campuses participated in the WFLW experience.  

Over 41,000 spoke with “moms;”  31,420 participating a demonstration (77%).  

75% had a favorable response to the product.  

15,044 students tried DWR on their clothes in the presence of a demonstrator.

Drive positive word of mouth among college students and encourage purchase intent.


Students lined up outside the laundry rooms to wait for demonstrators to arrive 

10% of the “Plead Your Case for a Case” entries were from campuses we didn’t go to.

50% of the students who took part in free laundry referenced a poster, flyer, magnet or e-mail as the reason they knew about WFLW.

Thousands of students mobbed demonstrators for the limited edition “USE ME” T-shirts.

1 in 10 students who visited the laundry rooms returned with a friend.

WFLW campuses are 23% more likely to say they would definitely/probably buy DWR

On WFLW campuses awareness of DWR is at 61% versus 20% national average.  

Build a relationship with students that existed beyond the laundry room demonstrations by driving them to the Downy Wrinkle website, had 701,178 hits since its September launch.  With diffusion activities being the only initial driver to the website, September alone had 11,959 unique visitors and 207,477 hits.  

Distribution of the lanyards increased the number of hits and unique visitors over 50%. 

Website traffic peaked Sunday through Thursday during the WFLW demonstrations.

Over 560 students visited the Plead Your Case section of the website, nearly half of them signed up to plead their case.