Friday, October 31, 2008

a method to the creative madness: part three

by Sonja Gugajew

Part Three + The common thread underlying all of its marketing communications is a very intimate feel expressed through human dialogue and experience. The result is a sincerity that is very difficult for larger, more traditional companies to emulate. Reading Method advertisements is not unlike listening to a friend. Method educates its audience about its philosophy while engaging them through storytelling.

Method’s holistic experience is also communicated in its unique merchandising strategy. In the cleaning product aisle of any Target store, consumers won’t find Method products sprinkled across disparate categories. Instead they stumble upon a presentation of Method products merchandised as a collection, just in case they haven’t already been drawn to Method’s banner effect of intriguing shapes and soft colors that glows out of the normally banal cleaning aisle. The message that Method communicates in its neat rows of premium elegance is a system of clean, healthy living. These aesthetic statements introduce consumers to the Method experience and help them navigate through all of their homecare needs. The merchandising strategy encourages Method consumers to buy products across its range of different categories. Once converted to the Method philosophy, consumers seek out this store-within-a-store and use the system of Method products to care for their Method home.

Method took its merchandising concept to the next level in what it calls “pop-up” shops: temporary stores or kiosks that are stylistically consistent with the brand design and offer a complete collection of Method products. The first one was set up off of bustling Union Square in San Francisco. In the fall of 2006, another was set up in Los Angeles in conjunction with H.D. Buttercup, whose focus on high-end furniture and home design made for a perfect fit. Method’s systemic approach to homecare lends itself well to packaged collection promotions, such as back-to-school caddies or holiday gift totes. With each themed kit, a story is built around the themed cleaning event, whether it’s returning to school or spicing up a friend’s life with holiday cheer. These stories are communicated on the packaging as well as in the premium design treatment, giving consumers a reason, or perhaps fulfilling a guilty pleasure, to bring the stories to life.

In the winter of 2006, Method launched a holiday-themed crossplatform promotion that included more than 15 holiday product launches across categories of cleaning, personal care and air care. An in-store display was designed around translucent cherry-red, mistletoe-green and ice-blue frosted bottles, which sparkled like holiday ornaments. The spiced pear, frosted cranberry, and peppermint vanilla scented hand washes, allpurpose cleaners, air care sprays and candles lured consumers with the essence of holiday cheer and the prospect of a version of Method clean integrated into their homes’ seasonal celebration. The passion and excitement generated by the holiday promotion can be summed up by one consumer’s words:

“‘To buy or not to buy,’ was the question I asked myself for a whole half second when I spotted the Method Holiday goodies while shopping at Target. I instantly perked up and my heart beat faster. Yea, it’s pathetic that cleaning products excite me. Tantalizing titles of Frosted Cranberry, Spiced Pear and Peppermint Vanilla scents beckoned me closer. I seized the peppermint vanilla hand wash…Then gasp! I saw the matching air enhancers, aroma candles, aroma pills, and all-purpose cleaners…”

Method’s disruptive profile and consumer-centric marketing message make it buzz-worthy and fuel consumer-generated word-of-mouth marketing. While most companies outsource their public relations and consumer service centers, both of these play a critical role in Method’s marketing. Thanks to a core public relations team, Method generates more than one billion impressions each year in placements such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, Shape, Family Circle, O Magazine and Time. It has been featured on television shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show and CNBC’s The Big Idea, and has been written about in publications such as Vanity Fair and The New York Times. Method’s presence can be felt at such events as the San Francisco Green Festival and through partnerships with organizations such as Siemens, a washer and dryer manufacturer, and Mommy Track’d, a Web site that helps working mothers manage their lives. Through buzz-worthy public relations, Method interacts with its consumers in non-traditional but relevant ways.

In accordance with its consumercentric focus, Method strives to make each consumer experience personal. Each e-mail and phone call is answered personally by a member of the marketing team. Thus consumer feedback is well integrated into Method’s marketing and product development efforts. “We get e-mails from women telling us that our products get their husbands and kids to clean,” said Jen Drubner, Method’s director of public relations, to the Tri-Valley Herald. “People have told us they have dinner parties just so they can use the products to clean up. Suddenly it’s cool to clean.” A collection of e-mails, pictures and letters cover a bulletin board at Method’s corporate headquarters.

The passion and excitement that surround the brand are evident in the Method parties that fans host, the stories they write, and the pictures they share of themselves posing with Method products. From this flood of consumer emails, phone calls and letters, Method has developed an extensive consumer database that serves as a platform for testing new products, conducting informal surveys, and, most importantly, nurturing a brand ambassador program. Encouraged to “help fight dirty,” loyal fans are enlisted to incite the People Against Dirty revolution. Upon signing up, each ambassador is sent an advocacy kit with a Method t-shirt and five Method sample kits to pass along to friends and family. In addition advocates are sent new product updates and can post their personal profiles on Method’s interactive Web site. With the same premium look and feel as its products, Method’s Web site is another personal connection to its advocates. It puts a human face to the brand. For example, candid face shots of actual Method employees flash opposite it's humanifesto online. The Web site also offers an online store, ecards to send to friends, a forum to ask questions and a People Against Dirty blog with tips on how to live clean. Through these activities, Method embraces its consumers and invites them to participate in its experience. The brand ultimately depends on its core group of loyal fans to spread the word about its mission and philosophy.

In the current information age, brands that wield creativity and innovation to break through the clutter will ultimately capture imaginations and win heart and mind share. At Method, creativity is more than just a buzzword; it’s a tenet to live by. From its hip, open-spaced office décor to its chic, minimalist designer products, Method exudes creativity inside and out. Method’s headquarters are comparable to a modern art gallery, with clean white space and products placed on lit pedestals. Past the lobby is an open layout of long, wide tables in place of cubicles. There is no private space at Method. Instead, everything is shared just as freely as the newly generated ideas that are excitedly exchanged in this charged atmosphere.

It’s an open culture where debate is encouraged, new ideas are embraced and words are not minced. There’s energy at Method, and the company’s passionate employees are brimming with it. Constantly innovating, without fear of taking risks and challenging
conventional thinking, Method employees represent a new entrepreneurial, creative class. The fast-paced office environment is testament to the two to three product lines Method launches each year. This rapid to-market speed gives Method an advantage over larger and more traditional companies. Method’s most recent evolutions include: a reusable performance-enhancing microfiber line; an eco-friendly, ergonomic convenience cleaning line called “omop;” and a naturally derived, mood-enhancing line of personal care products called “bloq.” Part of the ability to launch such a prolific stream of creative products comes from Method’s choice to outsource most of the ponderous overhead associated with new launches to more than 50 manufacturers. Method’s speed-to-market strategy allows it to be nimble and everchanging,learning from new products and scrapping mediocre ones based on experience. Thus Method can quickly adapt to consumer trends in a constant trialand- error process of innovation.

The result is a rapidly growing company that is a product of its own creativity. According to Felicia McClain, a research analyst with Mintel International Group, Method went from revenues of $156,000 in 2002 (one year after its launch), to $3.4 million in 2003. Market research firm Kline & Company estimated Method’s sales at $85 million in 2006. According to Inc. magazine, Method has experienced a growth of 3390 percent in the last three years. In addition, Method’s growth outstrips its competition in each of its categories year after year. For example, according to Information Resources Inc., 2006 sales of Method dishwashers grew 28.5 percent over the previous year, while the category as a whole grew less than 2 percent. Likewise, hand wash sales grew 68 percent over the same period, while the industry’s leading brand Softsoap only grew by 12.8 percent. Method faces challenges when wrapping itself around its expansive growth. As Method continues to enlarge its homecare offering, concerns increasingly express that the brand must remain undiluted and that new designs are on target with consumers.

Continuing to focus on and innovate around its already existing products is also a constant effort. Method CEO Alastair Dorward told Inc. magazine, “There was a time when we could get away with a couple of leakers. That type of miss now is unacceptable.” Still, Method’s remarkable, consumer- driven products stand out from the rest of the pack, and the buzz that results naturally elicits sustainable passion and loyalty. The creativity and drive Method uses to bring disruption in everything it does continue to leave a bit of magic dust in every trail it blazes. At Method, branding isn’t dead—it’s alive and well.


Sonja Gugajew is a marketing manager at Scottish & Newcastle Importers, working as part of a team to develop and promote Newcastle Brown Ale. Previously, she worked in brand teams at both Method Products Inc. and Reckitt Benckiser. She received her bachelor’s degree in literature with a minor in economics from the University of Pennsylvania.

+ Burlingham, Bo. “Small is the New Big.” Inc. magazine, Feb. 2006
+ DeBare, Ilana. “Cleaning Up Without Dot-Coms.” San Francisco Chronicle, 8 Oct. 2006
+ “Inc. 500.” Inc. magazine, Sept. 2006
+ Jones, Chad. “There’s a Method to this Cleaning Madness.” Tri-Valley Herald, 8 Mar. 2006
+ Miller, Lia. “Products to Break the Chemical Habit and Get Eco-Friendly.” The New York Times, 19 Jul. 2007
+ Neff, Jack. “Eric Ryan: The Method to His Madness.” Advertising Age’s Point magazine, Oct. 2005

1 comment:

Nathan Aaron said...

I told you this was a comprehensive article! Whew...

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