Eco-friendliness is one of the most popular social movements of this generation, and “green chic” is a trend that has endured through fashion’s fickle seasons. The message is clear: people care about the environment—and they’re willing to pay premium for products that promise to save it. From Whole Foods’ organic grub to Toyota’s Prius , smart companies have capitalized on products labeled with hip buzzwords like “sustainable” and “energy-efficient.”
Now, a Hamburg-based company has pushed the frontier with a line of bath and body products that has a green message substituting as its brand name. Prominent black lettering spells the command “Stop The Water While Using Me!” on starkly white bottles of shampoo, shower gel and toothpaste. All three are made with organic and/or natural ingredients, packaged in 100% biodegradable materials, and according to the website, manufactured with “sustainability in mind.”
The message-as-brand tactic has cleverly helped these products position themselves in an increasingly saturated market—the amount of online buzz they have generated is testament to their success at standing out from competition. Profit margins could be huge—the products are only sold online, and are nearly double the price of drug store varieties. Eco-loving consumers tend to be higher earning and discerning spenders willing to look beyond cheapest pricing to determine their purchases. Another advantage is their ability to merge personal comfort with environmental concern. Their taglines illustrate this winning combination; one reads: “Treat yourself well, and mother nature too.”
But this bold marketing strategy faces numerous challenges. Although the brand’s unique angle has attracted plenty of attention, it may prove too one-dimensional for long-term success. Is 13 Euros for a shampoo bottle (plus 12.90 Euros for international shipping) worth it for what is essentially a daily reminder? Edwin R. Stafford, an associate professor of marketing at Utah State University’s college of business, says that only a very small percentage of consumers make their buying decisions primarily based on the environmental qualities of a product. Immediate availability, price, convenience and perceived green product effectiveness all factor into their ultimate choices.
The limited scope of these products extends to its target consumers as well. “Stop The Water While Using Me!” may only appeal to those who are already interested in environmental issues, and its narrow focus limits it from attracting a broader cross-section of the public. Its niche position in the market hinders brand revitalization—a weak spot that could be fatal in the future. The success story of Herbal Essences, another hair product brand, shows the importance of flexibility: When P&G acquired Clairol in 2001, sales were so scanty that retailers were threatening to stop stocking the brand. Market strategists decided to rejuvenate its look and shift its target consumers from the “every woman” to Generation Y. Bold neon colors gave the bottles a fresh face, while product names like “No Flakin’ Way” and “Totally Twisted” appealed to the new generation with a little bit of attitude. On the other hand, when it comes to “Stop The Water While Using Me!” the one dimensionality of its brand identity hinders it’s possible permutations.
Even the brand’s pivot point—its name—may be too long. Compared to most one or two word brand names, this six-word string creates a verbal identity that is easy to recognize but hard to remember and communicate. Given that the products are currently only sold online, sales are even more dependent on consumer recall than if they were placed on a supermarket shelf. Even if three out of the six words are typed into a search engine, the top indexed results have no relevance to the brand’s products.
Consumers ultimately choose brands that offer a value proposition—certain functional, emotional and self-expressive benefits that make a brand more rewarding than others. “Stop The Water While Using Me!” may have to expand its brand identity to broaden its appeal and secure its long term viability.