A Method To The Madness

by | Aug 11, 2020

A trip down the cleaning aisle of the grocery store 30 years ago was like strolling through a chemical plant. You’d be hard-pressed to find a cleaner that wouldn’t harm your kids, pets, or the planet. But today we see plenty of cardboard cartons and shiny green bottles with “sustainable,” “green,” and “eco-friendly” labels. How did this shift happen? You might think it’s just a sign of the times, but in fact, it’s the result of a single startup that set out to disrupt and revolutionize the industry: Method.

Alameda, CA - July 21, 2017: Grocery store shelf with Method brand laundry soaps. Tough on dirt and stains. Biodegradable formula. Variety of scents available.

Today, Method’s products are ubiquitous in the cleaning and personal hygiene aisles. You’ve probably at least seen their sleek bottles and understated labels. And you may even have them under your own sink at home. From dryer sheets to body wash, Method makes just about every type of cleaning product for your home.

But they don’t have just cleanliness down to a science. Method has redefined what it means to be an environmentally conscious company. All of its soaps and cleaners are biodegradable and won’t harm plant or animal life. On top of that, the company sources all of its materials in the most environmentally friendly way possible and makes improvements each year.

Green Cleaning Before Green Was Cool

This is all part of a plan built into the way Method does business. On Method’s website, you’ll find the company’s “Benefit Blueprint,” which breaks down its philosophy of environmental awareness. It also showcases what the company is doing to continually become eco-friendlier. This dedication to values is the X-factor that makes Method unique and pushed its branding to the next level. 

To further its mission, Method became a Certified Benefit Corporation, or B Corp, a private certification established by the nonprofit B Lab. This organization works with companies around the world to meet high standards for sustainability, accountability, and transparency. To obtain the B Corp certification, companies must meet certain social and environmental standards. B Lab assesses companies on these standards before giving or renewing the certification. Method has baked these criteria right into its business model. Everything the cleaning company does and makes revolves around environmental ethics.

Flashback To 2000: The Year It All Began

But how did such an innovative and progressive company start? Way back in 2000, Method was founded by friends Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan. They started with an idea to disrupt the cleaning industry. It was a lofty goal, but Lowry, a chemical engineer, and Ryan, a marketer, had a plan.

Cleaning home table sanitizing kitchen table surface with disinfectant spray bottle washing surfaces with towel and gloves. COVID-19 prevention sanitizing inside.

First, they wanted to rethink what cleaning products had to be. For a long time, people believed environmentally friendly cleaning products couldn’t match the cleaning power of traditional soaps and solvents. And, at one point, that was true. Traditional products, still on store shelves today, are effective, but they’re also made with harsh chemicals that have to be handled with care. They work, but using them can be destructive.

To address this problem, Lowry and Ryan experimented with ingredients that were friendly to the environment. Ingredients had to be safe for everyday use and their sourcing and manufacturing had to be environmentally friendly. Method became a showcase for global environmental awareness because they cared about how these factors affected individuals and communities.

The Brilliance Behind The Branding

Young asian graphic designer working on computer using digital tablet at office.

As Lowry and Ryan developed their products, they knew they also needed to develop their brand. This was key since they were trying to disrupt cleaning giants like Clorox, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. Thus, Method didn’t just set out to differentiate what was inside the bottle. They also focused on differentiating the bottle itself. They wanted to buck tradition and strike out in a new direction. So, they brought in renowned designer Karim Rashid to help. Rashid is a star in the design world and has art on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He also has successful partnerships with Audi, Estee Lauder, and Samsung.

Within 2 years after Method’s founding, their products hit the shelves in Target stores. Instantly, consumers were intrigued. Method’s founders had focused on defining their brand and developing a product that stood out, and it worked. A few years later, Method was a $100 million company.

From Startup To Worldwide Sensation

In 2012, a Belgian company, Ecover, bought Method. Ecover was founded in 1980 with goals that aligned with Method’s. It, too, had set out to create environmentally friendly cleaning products. Ecover wanted to expand into the North American market and saw Method as the way to do just that. The partnership was a success, and Method raked in about $200 million a year, double what they were doing before.

Energy saving. stacks of coins growing in light bulb and tree growing on stacks of coins and tree nature background. Saving, Natural energy and financial concept.

Then, in 2017, S.C. Johnson & Son bought Ecover and Method, making the Method brand even bigger. Today, Method sells over 150 products, all still true to the company’s founding idea. And to the environment’s benefit, many other companies are following suit. Remember that trip we mentioned down the grocery store cleaning aisle? Walk through one today and you’ll see countless products touting their environmental friendliness — a trend Method started. 

When it comes down to it, Method’s success story can be traced to smart branding and a strong company mission. Lowry and Ryan figured out their product, differentiated their brand, and went after their long-established competition. They understood the value of environmentalism, which was truly taking off in the early 21st century. (Patagonia’s success story is another inspiring case in point.) For Method, the strategy worked: Consumers responded and the cleaning brand became a resounding success. If you’re looking to disrupt and revolutionize your own niche, ask yourself this question: What are your company’s values? If Method is any indication, those could be the foundation for your business’s success. 

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