How laundry detergent marketers are wringing every cent out of the wash

Laundry-related product introductions have been at an all-time-high the past couple years. Led by Procter & Gamble, CPG marketers have churned out a number of innovative wonders for clothes washing.

On a recent trip through the laundry aisles (yes, aisles is plural–there are two of them) at Target, I thought it might be fun to break down how much a person could spend on one load of laundry if s/he wanted to have the best-smelling, softest, brightest, whitest, most stain-free, and least-clingy clothes in the history of mankind. So I did:

Tide Pods Detergent 25¢
Tide Boost Detergent booster/stain remover 36¢
Downy Fabric softener
Downy Unstopables Scent booster $1.00
Shout Color Catcher Anti-bleed 16¢
Downy Sheets Anti-static

As you can see, one could spend nearly $2 per load on laundry products if s/he tried. Not that many people would use every one of these products, but when we consider that the average US family does about 400 loads of laundry per year, it’s easy to see why P&G, SC Johnson, and others are willing to develop and promote line extensions that will be added to a fraction of those loads.


H2O-NO: Maker’s waters-down its iconic brand

Reports of a decision by Maker’s Mark to add water to its signature bourbon in order to meet increased global demand have circulated online among drinkers in recent days. If my circle of friends is in anyway representative of a broader audience, it’s safe to say that the announcement has elicited a substantial amount of consternation, anger, and criticism. I’ve not heard of anyone burning their Ambassador’s Card yet, but the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative.

Maker’s has always been one of my very favorite brands. It’s a Kentucky-made product with iconic packaging and print advertising by Louisville agency Doe-Anderson (the horrendous TV ads they’ve produced the past few years are a very different story, but that’s another conversation), a place where I interned a century ago and where I had the good fortune of riding an elevator a couple floors with the very funny and foul-mouthed Maker’s Mark Master Distiller Bill Samuels, Jr. (now retired).

Samuels’s devotion to quality and consistency–and his acute marketing savvy–were the catalysts of the brand’s tremendous growth over three decades. An ad (posted below) produced in response to a spike in demand following a fortuitous 1980 WSJ article thanked drinkers for their interest, but conceded that the time-consuming nature of distilling, aging, and bottling Maker’s Mark didn’t lend itself to ramped-up mass production of the bourbon. This was, of course, partly true, but also a great way to spin the fact that Maker’s simply hadn’t yet grown large enough to produce enough volume to distribute outside of Kentucky. However, Samuels’s response cemented Maker’s position as a premium, hand-made, authentic bourbon and led to the formation of a cult of rabid brand enthusiasts. I suppose that’s much of the reason so many Maker’s drinkers are feeling plenty betrayed right now.

Image“We were very pleased on August 1st to find a story about our little family distillery on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

As a result of the story, we’re getting calls from people all over the country who are ‘suddenly’ interested in buying Maker’s Mark.

And as much as we’d like to accommodate all the inquiring public, we’re concerned that we can’t. Quality is what makes Maker’s Mark special. And if we made much more than we did, well, it just wouldn’t be the Maker’s Mark you read about.

If our special bourbon whisky isn’t available where you live, you might need a little perseverance. If your local retailer doesn’t have it, he can order it for you.

Or, if you’d prefer, write us at Maker’s Mark. We’ll get you started on the right avenue toward finding this one-of-a-kind whisky.”

Super Bowl ad review: Sodastream strategy falls flat

Sodastream wants people to buy one of its soft drink makers because it will help save the environment by eliminating lots of plastic bottles. Sounds nice, but will it sell the $80 machine? Doubtful. We’ve known for years that plastic bottles are an environmental disaster but that hasn’t affected the beverage industry in the least. Bottled water sales have steadily increased despite campaigns to sell $5 reusable bottles and to install fillers in offices and other places of business. This article points out that Americans are consuming more bottled water than ever. And this website notes that Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles per hour. In short, nobody really gives a rat’s ass about eliminating plastic bottles.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Sodastream’s sales won’t increase. It’s a neat machine that plenty of people will want to sit next to the KitchenAid mixer and Keurig coffee maker to impress house guests. But had it been positioned using a deprivation strategy (think of the original Got Milk? campaign), I think its post-Super Bowl sales bump would have been outstanding. Instead of talking about environmental pollution, the spot should have shown someone needing to whip up a fresh drink in the kitchen to seal the deal after a hot date but coming up short because his week-old cola poured out like cough syrup and had no bubbles.

The Sodastream could be the hero in a great many situations when someone doesn’t have time to run to the store or vending machine or doesn’t want to because it’s cold or rainy or late or whatever other reason. People could readily identify with those scenarios. Who hasn’t cooked a pizza only to realize that the Coke you planned to wash it down with was completely flat?