P&G’s Dawn Cleans Oil-Slicked Birds


When you consider the devastating environmental impact of the oil spill off the Louisiana coast, branding isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But, as we noted previously, the damage it is doing to BP’s brand image is potentially equally disastrous.

On the other hand, the brand image of Dawn, Procter and Gamble’s dishwashing liquid, is sure to be buoyed by the calamity.

P&G is now producing more bottles of Dawn and rushing it from a Kansas City plant to the Gulf region. The reason: For thirty years, Dawn has been used to help save wildlife from the toxic effects of oil, as we reported in a brand profile late last year.

The International Bird Rescue Research Center is involved in the clean-up operation, helping to run a BP-funded wildlife rehabilitation center in the area.

Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s executive director, tells Audubon, “IBRRC has conducted research on most of the commonly available cleaning agents and ‘Dawn’ meets all the criteria we have established for appropriate cleaning agents.”[more]

“Those criteria are the ability to remove most oils, effectiveness at low concentrations, non-irritating to the skin and eyes, rapid removal from feathers (rinsing), and is easily accessible,” he continued. “Procter and Gamble now donates all ‘Dawn’ detergent to IBRRC and other rehabilitation organizations.”

Procter and Gamble is not overlooking the public relations opportunity that could result from this novel usage of one of their famed brands, which has been in existence since 1973. The company has launched a Dawn Clean-up microsite, Facebook page with updates about the oil spill and is also tweeting about it.

Interestingly, it was IBRRC that first discovered Dawn’s efficacy in cleaning oily birds in 1978; however, Procter and Gamble apparently didn’t donate Dawn to IBRRC until ten years later. The timing was good, though — the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in 1989, and Dawn played a key role in the clean-up.

At the end of last year, Procter and Gamble launched an ad campaign for Dawn (see the video below) that focused on its cleansing abilities in oil spills, promising to donate up to $500,000 of product sales to wildlife causes. Tragically, it was only five months later that the product would be called upon to once again help in a major oil spill.