In the early 1900s, Unilever's entry into the Australian soap market had to employ a takeover strategy to overcome the barrier to entry created by long established local manufacturers. This had led to the merging of Lever Brothers (Australia) and J. Kitchen & Sons resulting in the formation of Lever and Kitchen Pty. Ltd. in 1914. From 1920's to 1950's Lever and Kitchen dominated the Australian soap powder market with no serious challenger. Persil was positioned as a heavy duty soap powder which promised 'extra whiteness' while Rinso's claim was a soap powder which gave 'thicker, richer suds'. The prevalent hand washing habit of that time favoured a gentler soap powder and Rinso became the market leader. Unilever, however, maintained a two-brand policy throughout this period. By the late 1940's the laundry washing habits of the Australian housewives were undergoing a rapid revolution. The washing machine promised to liberate the housewives from their heavy workload in the laundry and eliminate the drudgery which had chained women to the house for centuries. Lever and Kitchen reacted to the changing usage habits by repositioning Rinso and Persil as 'powders suitable for both hand-wash and machine-wash.' Rinso's market leadership was ensured by its advertising claim that all washing machine manufacturers recommended Rinso. Both brands continued to offer secondary benefits as a dishwashing agent. Lever and Kitchen continued to enjoy dominant market shares throughout the late 1940's and early 1950's.
Faculty of Business staff papers, no. 53
Swinburne Institute of Technology
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