Twist and shout

On July 1, SC Johnson launched the Windex Mini® — a concentrated pouch of Windex one can pour into a previously used, clean Windex® bottle, add water and then, presto, begin cleaning.  A couple of weeks later the company rolled out the SC Johnson All-In-One Cleaning Sprayer®, aka the Smart Twist.  It’s a spraying device to which one can attach three pouches — say Windex®, Scrubbing Bubbles® and Pledge® — and simply twist the carousel to the desired cleaner and spray away — no need to lug around three bottles.  These pouches are also concentrates, so the user adds a little water to the sprayer in this case, too.

I applaud SC Johnson for jumping into the very difficult concentrates fray.  And why is the concentrates market difficult?  Because, my fellow Americans, we do not like the inconvenience of having to add our own water to our cleaners.  We don’t like the mess of it, the extra 30 seconds of work, and the slight discomfort of not knowing if we’ve mixed it exactly right and if we’re about to ruin our carpets by spraying something that’s too highly concentrated on them…or, worse, not getting anything really clean at all because we diluted the mixture too much.

Remember the original SunChips® compostable bag?  All of our research says consumers LOVE the idea of compostable packaging (see Karen’s blog post from earlier this morning).  Compostable packaging offers the very delightful (yet untrue) promise that we could toss trash out our car window without making the nice Native American man cry.  But in the end, the bag was too loud — which violated the comfort mandate — and consumers deemed it too inconvenient to pour them into a bowl, violating the convenience mandate.

For three years running now Americans have told us in our Eco Pulse study they would choose their comfort or convenience over the environment. And concentrates violate both values.

It will be interesting to see if the convenience of having three cleaners in one offsets the inconvenience of having to snap in cartridges and add water. It doesn’t appear SC Johnson has set up a feedback loop with consumers on this yet — something I also applaud them for doing with the Windex Mini.  Right on the Windex Mini home page there’s an opportunity for consumers to weigh in. And from the comments it’s clear that SC Johnson has, in fact, violated the third mandate of green product marketing:  price.  Consumers expect concentrates to be CHEAPER than the conventional product.  After all, we’re doing all the work and the company’s saving money by shipping more product in each truckload.  The Windex Mini pricing works out to be about the same price, at least in the minds of the consumers who’ve commented on the site, as buying a regular bottle of Windex.

Unacceptable.  In today’s economy every green product targeted to a mainstream consumer must check the comfort box, the convenience box and the price box.  THEN a consumer will go, “And it’s good for the environment…yay!  I’m in!”  They will NOT trade off comfort, convenience or price to save the planet.  Period.

One last piece of unsolicited advice here:  SC Johnson, mainstream consumers don’t actually want to start a “concentrate revolution,” much less lead it, as the headline on your web site urges them to do.  Your targets here are Seekers and Skeptics with Individualistic and Absolutistic worldviews.  They’re followers who buy products that say things on them like “proven,” and “four out of five experts agree.”  Actives would cotton to the revolution message — they’re early adopters and very comfortable trying new things and leading the charge — but they’re not buying Windex.  They’re buying Seventh Generation and other natural-leaning brands.  So change the message and lower the price, and you just might have a hit on your hands.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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