For decades, Procter & Gamble has been pitching laundry detergents, promoting a dizzying array of different brands that all basically do the same thing — get clothes clean. Typically, detergent advertising concentrates on the features of the product and the benefits the consumer derives from using it.
So how does a niche detergent brand break through, especially when it doesn't have the luxury of the ginormous promotional budgets of a Procter & Gamble? For Method, the answer is simple: Be quirky.
Method, a pioneer in earth-friendly detergents and cleaning products, has fought against the Tides of the world since its founding 12 years ago. But it is only in recent years that the brand has faced its toughest competition.
That's because much bigger companies have discovered there is profit in Method's category as consumers have become more environmentally conscious about cleaning products. Clorox, for example, introduced Green Works, a competitive line, and got into a legal dust-up with Method over the use of a yellow daisy on Green Works' packaging.
But Method moved on, focusing on consumer engagement to differentiate its brand from competitors like Green Works and Seventh Generation. Last April, Method launched "Laundry Love," encouraging consumers to take videos of themselves doing laundry. The entirely crowdsourced campaign, a first for the company, employed print ads but was heavily supported with social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Now Method is trying to up the ante with another campaign with a populist twist will depend entirely on social media and online promotion. The theme, "Clean Happy," is depicted in a fanciful two-minute "brand anthem" video that includes, among other things, a marching band whose clothes are being washed with a squirt of Method detergent, a rock band playing in front of a cleverly configured wall of colorful Method bottles, and a skateboarder who skims through balloons that represent bubbles. The video features an up-tempo song but there is no voice-over about Method or its products. It ends with the large headline, WE ARE THE PEOPLE AGAINST DIRTY. JOIN US AND CLEAN HAPPY.
Method's Facebook page promotes the video with a contest: "Like Us to Watch Our New Video and Enter to Win." The prize is described as "a trip to Method in lovely San Francisco, a one year supply of cleaning happy (i.e. Method products), [and] untold happiness." It's also using Twitter to promote the campaign.
Method will spend about $3.5 million on the "Clean Happy" campaign, about one-third of its ad budget for 2012, according to the New York Times. Eric Ryan, Method's co-founder, tells the Times that the brand's challenge is two-fold: Method needs to emphasize the fact that it is a "high aesthetic" brand without being stodgy, yet highlight its quirkiness without seeming odd. "Heavy users love the brand," says Ryan. "It's as if you found out Skittles are good for you." Ryan's concern, however, is that "a lot of people still don't know about us... It takes a long time to build a consumer product brand."
The "Clean Happy" campaign is designed to grow the brand's awareness by capitalizing on its quirkiness while making it clear that the product line does its job. Tommy Means, a partner at Mekanism, the agency that created the new campaign, tells the Times, "We're embracing the mission of creating a safe household environment and keeping this brand a little bit weird, a little bit off."
Method can present itself differently from big brands like Tide, says Means, because it is "a brand by the people, of the people and for the people." It also, of course, hopes to clean up in its category.