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Category's 'dirty secrets' lead to detergent breakthrough

A jolt of inspiration often can bring about innovation that disrupts a product category when creative teams think about product and package development differently than the competition does.
FILED IN:  Package design  > Structural
Such inspiration can lead to real breakthroughs at shelf, even when the budget is tight.

Consider Method Products, San Francisco, CA. The household cleaning products creator and marketer's "total marketing budget is less than our competition spends on toilet paper every year," quips Joshua Handy, who carries the title of "disruptor." At Method, the way to gain inspiration comes by looking at a category's "dirty little secrets," and Handy says that's how the company aims to put the laundry detergent aisle on its ear.

Laundry detergent is a $3 billion industry, and jugs and screw caps long have dominated the packaging. Method's goal was to change category norms by better understanding the category and its consumers.

Through deeper research, the company uncovered three category secrets that drive package design in laundry detergent. First, the bulky jugs contain about 50% water. Second, 53% of people use an improper amount of—usually too much—detergent in each load. Third, the big, sticky jugs can make laundry a messy chore.

Method believes it has eliminated each of these issues through both product and package improvements.

The product innovation is a formula the company describes as eight times more concentrated than conventional laundry detergents. It eliminates the excess water that unnecessarily dilutes typical detergents, Handy explained at the FUSE/PROOF conference in April in Chicago. The formula is biodegradable and made from 95% natural and renewable ingredients, such as coconut oils.

The package innovation is a slender, handheld pump bottle. Handy says Method tested about 60 pumps before selecting one that requires two pumps of detergent for a small load, four pumps for a medium load, and six pumps for a large load. The larger 20-oz bottle contains enough detergent for 50 loads, and the 10-oz size handles 25 loads.

"We wanted it to be iconic, easy to hold, and without dripping, and have a design so people could remove the cap and smell the different detergent scents," Handy said.

Package materials also support the product's green initiatives. The recyclable bottle is made from 50% recycled plastic.

Handy added that Method Laundry Detergent provides a 35% lower footprint than standard, 2X detergents because of less use of water, plastic, energy, and oil.

"We hit all our dirty secrets with this one," Handy said.

The large size retails for about $15 and the small size $8.
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