business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that “laundry-detergent brands are about to face a messy marketing challenge: convincing consumers to pay the same old prices for about half the detergent.”

Except, of course, that it isn’t half the detergent. It is more concentrated detergent that takes up less room, and therefore allows manufacturers like Procter & Gamble and Unilever to use smaller bottles…which they’ve been pressured to do by companies like Wal-Mart, which want to be able to put more product on their shelves. The use of smaller packaging also cuts product costs for the manufacturers, and has the environmental upside of reduced packaging going into landfills or needing to be recycled.

All of which would seem to be a win-win. Except, potentially, for consumers.

“Come next year, shoppers simply won't be able to find giant bottles of the major brands anymore,” the Journal writes. “Still, there is huge potential for consumers to be confused and even irritated, which could lead to headaches for the companies.”
KC's View:
What we don’t understand is why manufacturers, at least according to the Journal, aren’t making the environmental upside of the new packaging a central part of their marketing efforts, but rather focusing on the potency of the concentrated formulas.

Potency is a good thing. But everything we’ve seen suggests that people want to make positive decisions when it comes to the environment, and the laundry detergent folks actually are making it simpler for people to make ethical choices (by, in fact, reducing their choices). Manufacturers ought to be using some version of the “a convenient truth” message as a key part of their communications, not shrinking from it.