A career in detergents was not part of my original game plan. Until I took the job with Unilever, I worked in the digital space with small, superfast start-ups in telecoms and retail. But detergents are a lot more interesting than you think. Everybody washes their clothes, and yet 90% of us get the dosage of detergent wrong.
In Europe, people do on average five loads of washing a week. If we can change how people use detergent, so they don’t keep using more than they need, the sustainable impact could be huge. It may seem like a contradiction for Unilever to be encouraging consumers to use less of what we sell but using less doesn’t mean you can’t run a profitable business. It just means you’re doing it in a more sustainable way. If you create a purposeful brand that people relate to, then loyalty comes naturally.
It can be hard to drive small initiatives in a business that is built on volume and scale. That’s why I pitched to Unilever’s European CEO and Home Care VP to set myself up as an intrapreneur to work with a group in the Home Care hub in the Netherlands. The aim was to develop a solution with a small team, adopting a start-up mentality. Fortunately, they said, “let’s do it”.
Our idea was to focus on creating a well-designed dosage device that people could trust to deliver the right amount. The aim was to make it easy to use – you push it once, twice or three times, depending on whether you have a light, normal or heavy load.
The device has been designed to be aesthetically pleasing too, so it’s worthy of having out in your home, rather than hidden away in a cupboard. We wanted to appeal to people who feel ‘a tidy house promotes a tidy mind’ with its minimalist design.
We called it ‘less’, because – literally – it’s using less of everything. Using the right amount of detergent not only means you need to buy less, it also means we use less water, packaging and CO2 to deliver it to you.