Back in the late nineties, childhood friends Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan were solving a big problem: they were trying to create a better cleaning product. Adam, a climate scientist, was concerned with making it non-toxic yet effective: public consensus at the time was that ‘green doesn’t clean’. But he wasn’t the only one wondering about that — there were other green brands trying to break into the market. Asking the same questions as him.
Luckily, his mate Eric was a complete outsider. He had come from an advertising background. He didn’t know much about cleaning effectiveness or toxicity — So he asked really naive questions. For example: ’Does it have to be so ugly?
Nobody else in the industry was asking that. They still don’t: just look at the house cleaning aisle at your local shop. Gruesome, right? Eric thought so, too. So he set off to create packaging that wouldn’t have to hide under the sink. Less P&G, more D&G. Bottles that people would proudly keep on the countertop, because they spell ‘This household has conscience… and class.’
There were other ridiculous questions, too: ’Does the name have to be so on-the-nose and shouty?’ So they didn’t go for some Flash, Vanish or Bang doppelgänger. They called it Method. ’Can we advertise a cleaning product in a glossy magazine, right next to high-class fashion and lifestyle shots?’ So they did. ’Can we commission a luxury product designer?’ So they hired Karim Rashid; a decision that shortly got their product onto the shelves of Target, turning Method into a household name overnight.
Those questions made Method the seventh-fastest growing private company in the country in 2006, and now help it rack up a cool $100+ million in sales per year. And you should see what Eric’s latest venture, Welly, is doing to first aid kits…
So, if you want to shake up your industry, stop asking the same questions as your competition. Ask what only an outsider could ask.