The method of Method Home: 10 years of fresh consistency
News that SC Johnson has paid an undisclosed (but probably juicy) price to buy Method Home prompted me to look up the post I wrote about the brand exactly 10 years ago. At that time I interviewed marketing cartoon genius Tom Fishburne who was launching Method in the UK. What impressed me when reading the old post is how consistent Method has been since then, at the same time as keeping the brand fresh. And this decade of ‘fresh consistency’ has paid off, with revenue more than trebling from $34million to over $100million today.
Here is the post from 2007, with notes to give a 2017 update on the brand.
1. ITS ABOUT THE PRODUCT STUPID
Most admirers of Method wax lyrically about the emotional appeal of the brand. But what I really love is that the whole brand is built on fantastic products and packaging. Just look at this stuff, which is more like cosmetics that you average household cleaning products. No surprise, as they got uber cool design Karim Rashid to design the packaging. And they have a real point of difference in striving for efficacy, whilst being non-toxic. With products like this you don’t need to invest lot in fancy communication, as the products speak, or rather shout, for themselves.
2017 Update: Method has been incredibly consistent with its product and packaging, as the pictures below show. It has stuck to making beautifully designed, colourful, non-toxic cleaning products that are ecological and effective.
2. BRING to LIFE YOUR BRAND VISION
Talking to Tom I felt the same fervour as when I met Dan Germain, creative genius of innocent. Method are clearly on an adventure that goes beyond just pushing products. They want want to make cleaning your home sexy, cool and at the same time less harmful. Like innocent, they have their own irreverent tone of voice and language which is shouts through in their brand manifesto. Here are a few snippets from the method “humanifesto” that you can download here: method_humanifesto.pdf:
We see ingredients that come from plants, not chemical plants
We’re entranced by shiny objects, like clean dinner plates, nobel peace prizes, and tasteful public sculptures
Role models in bottles, a way to help each and every advocate put their method where their mouth is
Once you clean up your home, a mess of other problems seem to disappear as well
I quizzed Tom about which sort of positioning tool they used to sum up the method brand; Tom knows a thing or two about this as he is ex General Mills. But guess what? They haven’t spent months labouring over a pyramid or onion. They do have a couple of things which are clear, and because these words weren’t messed with by a committee, they are distinctive and edgy.:
– An overall mission, “What we’re for” which they summarise as “people against dirty”
– A slogan: “Detox your home”
2017 Update: ten years on and “People Against Dirty” remains the brand’s rallying call, again an impressive example of brand consistency. And the ‘role models in bottles’ statement from the brand manifesto is front and centre on the brand’s website.
3. BRING CREATIVITY INSIDE
This is perhaps the most interesting insight of all I got from Tom. Like innocent, Method have key creative people inside the company. In particular, the guy who heads up product design, Josh Handy, used to work as product director for Karim Rashid. Cool. So, rather than having to brief a design agency to come up with ideas, Josh sketches then up in a couple of hours, and then uses a nifty bit of kit to create a 3-d mock-up… over night. Wow.
2017 update: speed of operation remains key to Method’s success, as a recent Inc article explained: “Whereas giant companies can take years to bring a new product to market, Method has built up the wherewithal to introduce a new product in only a matter of weeks.” It also cool to see that Josh Handy who I referred to in 2007 is still working at Method, now as Global VP of product experience.
4. HAVE A BRAND CEO, or TWO
The 2 founders of method, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, don’t talk about the brand. They ARE the brand, what I call “brand CEOs”.What is really interesting is that Tom explained how they each bring to life one of the two key sides of the brand:
– “Sex”: Eric Ryan is the ex-ad guy with the creative touch
– “Substance”: Adam Lowry is the ex Standford scientist who was really into the environment
Their own version of “sausage and sizzle”!
2017 update: consistent, strong leadership has been key to Method’s success, I suggest. Eric still works at Method, in addition to starting OLLY, a maker of premium nutrition and wellness products. Adam stayed with Method until 2015, leaving to start Ripple, a dairy-free drink company.
In conclusion, Method Home is one of the best examples I’ve seen of a brand harnessing the power of fresh consistency. They have remained true to their founding brand idea and manifesto, building and amplifying a set of highly distinctive brand properties (logo, colours, pack shapes). At the same time they have kept the brand fresh with new products and communication. And driven physical availability by expanding distribution in the US and UK, where they were 10 years ago, and by launching in other markets.