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
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.