Products to Break the Chemical Habit and Get Eco-Friendly

Published: July 19, 2007

 

METHOD PRODUCTS has made a name for itself
by selling household cleaners in sleek packages with an eco-friendly
message and a hip corporate vibe. Picture a $5 container shaped like a
perfume bottle filled with French lavender dish soap that contains no
bleach or phosphates.

Until now, the seven-year-old company’s products have been marketed
largely through word of mouth, good shelf space and the appeal of the
packaging. Using the slogan “people against dirty,” Method Products
Inc. has placed its laundry detergents, spray cleaners, hand washes and
other items in stores like Target, Wegmans, Costco and Duane Reade,
where they typically cost 15 to 20 percent more than mainstream
national brands.

This week the company, which is based in San
Francisco, introduced its biggest advertising push to date, a campaign
called Detox Your Home. Created in conjunction with TBWA/Chiat/Day, the
campaign showcases the company’s biodegradable cleaning products (it
also sells a personal care line, which includes body washes, lotions
and shaving cream).

The campaign includes print ads, online
banners and a search-engine marketing component. Method Products is
also planning events around the country to promote its message in local
markets.

Detox Your Home is a “call to action to live a
healthier lifestyle,” says Francesca Schuler, Method’s vice president
for marketing. She says the company wants to inspire people with the
idea that small changes can make a big difference. “With all the green
and health messages out there, we wanted to be clear about how to have
a healthier home. The first thing to do is, get rid of those chemicals.”

The
“green cleaning” movement — using household cleansers made from
environmentally friendly, nonpolluting ingredients — has been gaining
momentum and revenue recently. The granddaddy of the category, Seventh
Generation, which sells both household cleaners and personal care
products, is 15 years old. Companies that make conventional cleaning
products, like Clorox and S. C. Johnson, are offering similar product lines.

Last
year, according to Kline & Company, a market research firm, Method
Products had sales of $85 million. The private company was the
fastest-growing cleaning products concern of the 18 that Kline
profiled, posting a 140 percent increase in sales in 2006. Kline also
estimated that the green category of the household cleaning products
industry represents $300 million in sales, or 2 percent of the total
market.

S. C. Johnson, the maker of Windex, Pledge and
Fantastik, began an initiative six years ago called Greenlist in which
it rates all the raw materials used in its products for environmental
safety.

Scott Johnson, vice president for global environmental
safety at S. C. Johnson, said that the company did not have a separate
category for green products, but had been trying continuously to
upgrade its existing products to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as
possible. In January, Clorox plans to introduce a line of eco-friendly
products to be sold alongside its existing bleaches and cleansers.
Clorox expects the Green Works line to cost about 20 percent to 25
percent more than its current products.

Stephen P. Ashkin,
president of a green-cleaning consultancy called the Ashkin Group and a
former director of product development for Seventh Generation, said he
foresaw big companies like Clorox and S. C. Johnson becoming sources of
major innovations in the green cleaning industry. “They will invest
their technical resources into products,” Mr. Ashkin said. “And as they
sell more, they will buy more green raw materials, which will drive
further innovation among their suppliers.”

Ms. Schuler of Method
Products said she was not daunted by the larger rivals. “We are excited
about the competition,” she said. “It means people want to live a
greener lifestyle, and we are all for that.”

The new campaign for
Method Products was meant to reflect the “style and substance” of the
products as well as the “personal” and “very human” attitude of the
company, said Carisa Bianchi, president of TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los
Angeles, which is part of the TBWA Worldwide unit of the Omnicom Group.

“The
brand itself has a personality that is very fun. They really wanted to
preserve that personality,” Ms. Bianchi said. “It’s written from a
human perspective, it’s very conversational, from someone you might
know well.”

Some of the ads are a bit provocative. One
shows the entwined legs of two nude people lying on the ground, the
rest of their bodies hidden by a wall; a mop is propped against the
wall. The slogan reads, “Make floor love, not floor war.”

Another visual shows a spray cleaner bottle wrapped in a crumpled brown paper bag, with the slogan “lay off the hard stuff.”

Given
that Method Products is known for its package design, part of the hook
is that the products, like Ylang-Ylang shower spray and Cut Grass aroma
sticks, are “counter-worthy,” as Ms. Schuler put it. “If you want to
leave them out, they look fine,” she said.

At the same time,
the look of the new campaign, which Ms. Schuler would only say had a
budget of “several million dollars,” is geared toward creating new
“advocates” — people whom the rest of us might call “customers.”
Advocates, said Ms. Schuler, “want a healthier lifestyle and appreciate
good design.”

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