Ariel’s campaign to get consumers to wash clothes at lower temperatures persuaded them that they could do something to battle climate change.
Ariel is one of the leading brands in the portfolio of Procter & Gamble (P&G), which markets more than 300 branded products around the world. As a sector leader of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, P&G has an established track record of promoting environmental sustainability through its Live, Learn and Thrive corporate cause campaign and through its brands to ‘ensure a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come’.
The Ariel ‘Turn to 30°‘ campaign, which first launched in 2006, was one of the first P&G brands in the UK to capitalise on mainstream environmental awakening. It promoted washing at 30 degrees rather than the previous standard 40 or even 60 degrees. However, by 2007 there was a much more crowded competitor environment, with retailers and competitors communicating a diversity of sustainable messages and in cases, mimicking Ariel’s original ‘Turn to 30°C’ message.
Nevertheless, the second wave of the campaign in 2007 helped Ariel maintain ownership of the issue in consumers’ minds. Furthermore, it delivered strong volume uplift and contributed to an increase in the number of loads washed at 30 degrees.
Educating consumers to help the planet
October 2007 marked the 170th year that P&G had been in business. Over that time, growth had stemmed from keeping faith with P&G’s core principle of sustainable development: ‘Ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come’. The organisation had a long heritage as a sustainability leader, and remained committed to improving consumers’ lives through its brands and by contributing to the sustainability of the planet and communities in which its employees lived and worked. Over the past decade, P&G had made a significant impact through its ‘Live, Learn and Thrive’ corporate cause campaign and, by using the trusted relationship its brands had with billions of consumers, continued to champion domestic behaviour that contributed to the greater good.
As a brand, Ariel itself had been associated with encouraging the UK’s children to lead an active lifestyle and take up tennis. From 2006 this focus became less social and more environmental in its sustainability messages. Its commitment to reducing packaging and water usage, as well as its dedication to reducing the energy used in the production stage, had made it one of the leaders in its field.
Analysis of Ariel’s Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which measured the product’s environmental impact from cradle to grave, showed that the highest amount of energy was used in the home: heating the water in the wash cycle. In response to this, in 2006 Ariel developed a message which emphasised the importance of washing at lower temperatures — 30 degrees C — to help ‘do a good turn’ for the environment.
Before the launch of this campaign, consumers believed that they needed to wash at high temperatures in order to get good results, which proved an entrenched barrier to adopting more sustainable cold-cleaning behaviours. However, Ariel’s superior Cold Clean technology meant consumers benefited from excellent cleaning at low temperatures, while still saving energy and promoting more sustainable laundry practices (Figures 1 and 2).
Broadening the message of sustainability
In year two of Ariel’s ‘Turn to 30°’ campaign, Ariel challenged consumer perceptions even further on this point, which in effect also helped with an increase in differentiation and branded recall. This route provided a meaningful improvement to the business in terms of energy efficiency by spreading a ‘sustainable behaviour’ message generally.
The decision to run the campaign in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust (EST) for a second consecutive year was important in bringing about long-term behavioural change but brought fresh communication challenges for the brand team
Ariel’s challenge was not only to educate consumers that they could get good results at low temperatures, but to widen the context by creating direct links between energy saving and climate change (communicating the small steps we can take to make a difference) and thus generate a much stronger, more high profile call to action while still inspiring and empowering consumers.
Integrating for maximum impact
The messages were complicated and needed a tailored approach, so communications planning ensured that different media communicated different messages, which ultimately added up to a totally integrated plan centered around one central call to action.
The success of the second wave campaign stemmed from:
There were a number of specific activities.
For the second wave campaign, all resources where possible were made from recycled materials or sustainable forestry, while the entire campaign was carbon offset.
Making a big difference
The Ariel ‘Turn to 30°’ second-wave campaign stood out because:
Data from the Habits and Practices Study showed that before the start of the campaign, only 2% of wash loads in the UK were washed at 30 degrees. By the end of Ariel’s ‘Turn to 30°’ second wave, customer perceptions had been successfully changed as shown by an independent survey conducted in August 2007, which revealed that since Ariel’s bid to get the nation to wash at 30°:
In addition to this, independent research by IPC Green Matters 2007 attributed high brand linkage between Ariel and 88% of those that now washed at 30°C. This highlighted that, despite a more competitive marketplace, a combination of credible messaging, an enhanced message and stakeholder and customer support paid dividends for the second wave of the Ariel ‘Turn to 30°’ campaign.
The campaign was thus not only responsible for consistent behavioural change and volume sales uplift since, but received widespread stakeholder and industry accolade for putting energy saving on the mainstream agenda.
Continuing the crusade
Since the ‘Turn to 30°’ campaign, the Ariel brand has continued its leadership in encouraging sustainable consumer behaviour in the laundry category. Launched in 2009, Ariel Excel Gel is a breakthrough detergent designed from scratch to deliver outstanding cleaning even at low temperatures and can clean as well at 15°C as at 60°C. To find the optimum formulation for the brand, over five million formulations were tested by R&D experts, with only 30 meeting the success criteria. This provided the ultimate mix of ingredients to form a stable and high-performing gel.
In fact, Which magazine called this new formulation better than any other laundry detergent ever tested, even at a much lower temperature.
Washing at low temperatures is the single most important thing people can do to lower CO2 emissions while doing laundry. Cold-water washing campaigns such as the Ariel ‘Turn to 30°’ have helped cut 58,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions by educating consumers to save energy.