Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

3 minute read

Leadership

Making People Passionate For Toilet-Bowl Cleaners And Other "Low-Interest" Products

Method has proved there is no such thing as a low-interest product category, just low-interest brands. Attracting attention in a traditionally low-interest category like soap or underwear just takes a bit more thought than, say, beer or cellphones.

We admit it: We were never passionate about cleaning before we launched Method. But building a belief brand with a social mission taught us that there is no such thing as a low-interest category, just low-interest brands. Anyone can generate excitement about a new cellphone technology or a new beer brand. Attracting attention in a traditionally low-interest category (like soap) takes a bit more thought. This is one of the best benefits of belief brands—they work equally well in crowded high-interest categories and in overlooked categories. Beyond the emotional engagement created by sharing similar beliefs and values with their advocates, belief brands have a philosophy, an attitude, and a story to tell. Their personalities aren't created in some office on Madison Avenue; they're woven into the very fabric of the organization. Below, a few examples of high-interest brands in low-interest categories:

Joe Boxer. By injecting irreverence and controversy into his Joe Boxer brand, Nicholas Graham transformed everyday boxer briefs into a conversation piece.

Dyson. Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine anyone getting excited about a vacuum cleaner. Dyson shook up the dusty category with innovative technology and beautiful design.

Swingline. An unremarkable and ubiquitous tool, staplers were the poster boy of low interest before Mike Judd cast a red Swingline as an object of devotion in his 1999 corporate satire, Office Space.

While we rely primarily on style and substance to inspire interest in cleaning products, we also tap into an often overlooked subset of consumers: people who actually love to clean. You probably even know a few friends whom you consider to be clean freaks. We believe in making the act of cleaning more enjoyable and, if we may say so, aspirational. But virtually every commercial treats cleaning as if it were a huge hassle, virtually screaming promises of convenience and ease. Pandering to women with images of grinning maids in aprons, it was as if taking care of your things was something to be ashamed of, something you'd rather leave to someone else. This is typical problem-solution marketing, in which you set up a problem (mildew in the bathroom) and then present your product as the hero solution (Pow! mildew gone). The problem with this approach is that it forces the consumer to enter through the problem, so your brand will always live in low-interest land. Even if you don't find an ounce of joy in cleaning, virtually everyone loves the end state, a clean home. So we focused on talking about the aspirational end state of cleaning, and we found that, to many people, cleaning is an important part of life. It's the ritual of connecting to their homes and families by putting life back in order. To many, cleaning is a form of caring for their children or pets by providing a safe haven for those they care about most. Seeking to draw out our audience's inner clean freaks, we filled our ad campaigns with young, great-looking naked people in gorgeous, hip homes, using (or maybe just caressing) a rainbow of beautiful Method products. Rather than the "quick and painless" promises in our competitors' ads, we communicated with clever, cheeky messages intended to promote the aspirational idea that cleaning could be cool (gasp!). Flying in the face of decades of traditional cleaning commercials, the ads resonated with people of all ages.

To many people, jogging is a chore. Imagine if Nike ran advertisements featuring unhappy joggers forcing themselves through another grueling early morning routine. Not likely. To the contrary, the brand celebrates every sport it touches, with aspirational imagery. We'd even bet there are some fierce badminton ads out there that would inspire you to Just Do It with a birdie! Nike ties this to its social mission of bringing inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. As Bill Bowerman, track coach and cofounder of Nike, said, "If you have a body, you are an athlete."

Bottom line: If you're struggling to shift your brand from low to high interest, seek to reframe your communications from presenting the problem to projecting the desired end state and wrap that in a social mission.

Excerpted from The Method Method by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry by arrangement with Portfolio Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright © 2011 by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry.

[Image: Flickr user AllStarsYouth]