The brand catwalk

Each month I want to try and showcase a brand that has an interesting take on the market they operate in and ideally is built around a clear brand idea or ideal.
The first candidate to send down the catwalk for your edification and scrutiny is Method, the US personal and homecare brand – now available in the UK and Canada.

I was introduced to Method by Johnny Vulcan, of Anomaly fame, at the last Coffee Morning of 2006.
Half Molton Brown, half Ecover, Method combines houseproud style, efficacy and environmental care in one funky cleaning brand. And in doing so creates the sort of consumer desire that one usually expects from the drawing board of Jonathan Ive
The secret appears to be in the talented combination of co-founder Adam Lowry (a chemical engineer from Stamford),the packaging design and plastic wizardry of Karim Rashid and the brand nouse of co-founder Eric Ryan, an ex-adman (there is hope for all of us).
Adam and Eric in playful mood
But its is also that Method’s brand idea is so potent, a brand idea encapsulated in the thought ‘people against dirty’.
‘People against dirty’ tickles me for a number of reasons.
For starters it is the antithesis of Persil’s ‘Dirt is good idea’ which as you all know I really like. But there is room in my heart for more than one breakthrough detergent strategy and I am loving ‘People against dirty’.
At first sight it rather wonderfully embraces contemporary consumers who want their homes clean, clothes pristine and bathrooms well appointed. It is a home-care brand that gets beyond the post war idea of housework as a chore that needs to be completed as fast and with as little effort as possible. In part of course this is because many of Method’s customers will have a rather casual relationship with the cleaning leaving that to the cleaner that they employ for the purpose. Nevertheless its a brand that celebrate cleanliness whereas the ‘scientific’ brands merely obsess about it and the environmental brands seem not to be that interested. This is the platform for an environmentally friendly brand to stand up it’s efficacy credentials.
Fairy Liquid eat your heart out
But of course the idea is more fundamentally about a belief that there is no point in getting your clothes or hands clean if the results is you make the rivers dirty. Method is against all dirt wherever it is. This is the real traction in the brand idea especially for anyone like me that winces every time the Finish tablet is popped into the dishwasher. Method, like many of the brands we currently admire, has a strong point of view on the things that we care about and does something about it.
Interestingly in that context Persil’s belief in dirt being good becomes rather worrying – an enthusiastic embrace of environmental destruction.
But this isn’t merely an interesting brand it is an succesful one – Inc. magazine recently named it the seventh fastest growing private company in the US, in a sector that is absolutely stagnant and last year Method racked up sales of $44.9m.
I’m in love, not that I’ve yet experienced the product first hand. A ghastly UK e-commerce site means that I have as yet failed to get my increasingly filthy hands on any of this stuff and boy you should see the delivery charges – perhaps the Royal Mail is not the best way to get detergent into your house.
And here is the Method chart using the brand idea concept that I introduced last year.
By the way Crispin Porter have done some work for method that is on their site.

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15 Replies to “The brand catwalk”

  1. Such a great brand.
    I couldnt resist making it the first story in my last book (& do check that Cannes award winning confessions website).
    It’s sort of the innocent of the US. And I heard it is coming to Europe in a big way too. I think Adam Morgan possibly works with them/knows them btw if you want an insider commentary.
    For me the brand is all about not accepting that mundane, everyday and useful has to be boring. Yes its good for the world (and thats really important) but it also has more charisma and relevance than most fashion/gadget/sports brands.
    Another thing I saw once in the same vein was a joint fashion/clothing detergent brand in Tokyo. They sold persil type products. they also sold funky denimwear & tshirts saying things like ‘fuck housework’. Admittedly it was prob a bit of a joke but it also shows the potential of simply refusing to be fmcg-dull.
    ps what would your four rings thing be for the new apple phone? Do pop by & comment.

  2. ps looks like you have been working on your own p(rop)osition
    QUOTE: Radical thinking about the future of advertising and the brand advice business
    the second bit is new right?
    (perhaps you now need to call it Baadliterate? ;)

  3. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a disparity between their promise of UK distribution and the reality.

  4. Mr Dodds I have been trying to order through their UK on line store but there is a problem in recognising credit cards and the delivery costs double the order value seemingly regardless of volume.

  5. You had me at the first picture. I want them in my home.
    They will genuinely make a positive difference to my life. I use Ecover because I think I should, but everyday when I look at the washing up bottle and it depresses me. It looks grubby, worthy and sad.
    I love the idea that dirty = not beautiful/not bright/not happy or guilty (in an environmental sense).

  6. Quote: “In part of course this is because many of Method’s customers will have a rather casual relationship with the cleaning leaving that to the cleaner that they employ for the purpose.”
    Although most of your analysis is on point, this point made me laugh! I think you over-estimate how high up-stream these Method products really are. Here in Canada, they are available at the drugstore, and they aren’t very expensive. I think you missed this point. Method products aren’t like “salon exclusive” shampoos, they’re just the high-end of the drugstore varieties. That fits perfectly with the Karim Rashid “cheap’n’funky” design. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a toilet to scrub.

  7. I vote for Method a local San Francisco firm.
    Eric is a great guy and an ex-planner.
    He presented at a conference we hosted a couple of years ago
    The spark for the company came from looking at the packaging for household cleaning products and how the form hadn’t changed for 30 years. Everyone was using the same PET container.
    They thought what if the packaging could be cool and people instead of hiding them under sinks wanted to display them?
    They went out and hired Karim Raschid to design their first pack and went from there.

  8. Hi. Another Canadian here. To add to Justin’s comment what Method has done is to take commodity household cleaners and build brand values not through mass media but through the product itself by adding packaging design values and environmental responsibility values – at a price comparable to so called leading household brands.
    So rather than using advertising to convince you the shopper it is a more worthy product than the competitor beside it on the shelf, they invested in making the prodcut better than the one beside the shelf – both aesthetically (it’ll look good sitting in public beside my kitchen sink) and environmentally (I can sleep at night because I’m not killing fish nor slowly poisoning my children.)
    But take away the rational “environmentally responsible” without a premium price aspect – as a brand idea People Against Dirty is fantastic. I love it and am envious of it. I wished all the brands I worked for stood for something so true and pure they could carry such a pithy and authentic premise.
    PS ships the products globally. I recommend the peppermint vanilla countertop spritz.
    PPS Titles are generally quite meaningless but recently we received a note from someone in their marketing department with the title Media Provocateur. Nice to see a client formally dictate dissension and agitation as part of their job, but somehow I think Method does this in a productive way than most.

  9. Method are marvellous. I met Eric last year and he is one bright chap. I imagine they’re going to do really well in the UK. And why wouldn’t they? They look good and they don’t screw the planet. Just imagine how many units a good looking Prius might shift.

  10. I’ve been hooked on their entire range since spotting their dish soap in Target (the perfect initial mass stockist I think )

  11. I agree with all the above – great brand idea, great people and a local SF success story.
    But Ed Cotton hit the nail on the head: the insight and a lot of the success is due to the cool packaging and the fact that people want to display it. In fact, I would guess that the majority of the people who buy it don’t know anything about “people against dirty”.

  12. However the CP+B ads doesn’t do it for me at all. There is one visual in one of the broschures where something is starting to happend – the one with the people cleaning the outdoors. People against dirty is really good but need to be dramatized alot more.

  13. I just don’t understand the obsession with household cleaning products. I am sure I’m bombarded with adverts on a daily basis as often as I am photographed on CCTV camera. Are we all really surrounded in a pool of filth?

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