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Scotchgard Protector leverages brand equity with sustainability

As national sales manager for 3M in charge of the Scotchgard brand, Jim Stevens doesn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining who 3M is or what Scotchgard represents. With a consumer brand recognition of 96%, Scotchgard is one of the most recognizable and trusted brands in the consumer products industry.

“That’s the good thing, the easy part,” he said.

But what Stevens does have to explain is that this is not your grandfather’s Scotchgard. While the brand has existed for decades, much has changed over the years. “There is a misperception this is the same thing introduced in the 1980s,” Stevens said. “What people don’t know is we are continually working on it and improving it. Substrates have changed over the years, and there is a larger degree of application expertise involved.”

Stevens admitted 3M needs to better convey to the consumer that Scotchgard is continually evolving, whether it is through fabric protection or environmental leadership. The company is in the process of upgrading its website to better communicate that message to consumers. “We have to be more creative in the way we do it,” he noted.

A truly global brand

As Stevens pointed out, today’s Scotchgard Protector is different. It is setting a standard for environmental leadership and is now available in more than 60 countries, making it a true global brand. Scotchgard Protector applications include apparel, automotive care, carpet and hard surface care, home fashion fabrics including upholstery, leather, outdoor gear and paint.

3M is continually developing technology or tweaking existing technologies to achieve better efficiencies and applications. It has developed several products designed for solution dyed (SD) fibers which will enable the company to introduce more branded styles on SD polyester.

“We also continue to work on polymer melt additives where we take our protective materials and melt them into the actual fibers to achieve oil- or water-resistant properties,” Stevens said. “We’re hopeful we’ll be able to bring this back

to carpet fiber treatments sometime in the future.”

3M is touting its new Scotchgard Tile and Grout Protector as an excellent example of the company’s ability to leverage its powerful brand to other relevant applications and substrates. “In the recent past we’ve been able to expand it to vinyl flooring [Congoleum], wood flooring [Mohawk] and even eyewear and paint,” Stevens said. “The consumer has a very high degree of awareness and trust with the Scotchgard brand, and with our promise being around ‘keeping things looking new longer,’ we have great opportunities for expansion.”

Stevens said he would prefer not to share specifics at this time regarding Scotchgard’s further expansion both within the flooring market and outside of it. However, he did say Scotchgard Protector has gone through “literally hundreds” of technology variations in order to accommodate the needs of customers in applications ranging from leather to apparel, flooring and DIY applications.

“The biggest difference from years ago is the fact we’re building upon very sustainable technology, which we transitioned to in 2001,” he said.

A very green story

3M’s move to more sustainable chemistry began in 2000, well before the green movement took hold. Stevens said Scotchgard met the EPA’s Voluntary PFOA Stewardship requirements years before their requested timeline.

Corporately, 3M has positioned itself as an environmental leader, led by its 3P (Pollution Prevention Pays) program, which has received many accolades. In 2009 alone, the company had 670 3P projects that ended up preventing 29,000 tons in pollution, including air, water, sludge and solid waste, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million metric tons.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy will recognize 3M with its sixth straight Sustained Excellence Award this month, a record for an industrial company. The award acknowledges companies that demonstrate extraordinary and sustained programs to reduce energy use and increase energy efficiency.

Stevens said green is part and parcel of what 3M/Scotchgard is all about. “We believe there’s a green story around our brand promise, ‘Keeping things looking good longer,’ meaning less cleaning needed and a longer time before the product needs to be replaced,” he said.

-Ken Ryan