Want to Sell a Green Product? Don't Call It Green

Consumers want better products, not necessarily greener products, according to Method Co-Founder Adam Lowry.

That means creating products that work better and give consumers a selfish reason to buy them, even if that reason is simply convenience. But if the only differentiator is a better environmental profile, forget about it.

"I fundamentally believe that if you build something and ask people to buy it for the sole reason it's green, you'll ultimately fail," Eric Ryan, Method's other founder, agreed. "That's about my best piece of advice."

In a wide-ranging conversation with GreenBiz Executive Editor Joel Makower today at the State of Green Business Forum, Lowry and Ryan explained why a company created 12 years ago with environmental responsibility written into its DNA would distance itself from the green label.

"We don't run from the green, we just don't make that the lead story," Ryan said.

Instead, Method sells an experience, or the technology that has enabled the San Francisco-based company to turn the laundry detergent segment on its head with its own product that is eight times as concentrated as its conventional counterpart.

Though just a small player in the overall green cleaning market, which tops $20 billion, Method is often credited with helping push the industry toward compacted laundry detergents, which are now sold at outlets across the retail spectrum.

Begun in 2000, Method's annual revenue now exceeds $100 million and the company has been profitable since 2004, Lowry said. What's more, the company just had its best year ever and is growing "faster than anyone in this industry."

Its sleek stylish bottles are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic, while the contents are non-toxic but effective. It's a premium product that attracts a wide range of customers, but the co-founders say it is the company's sustainability credentials that get customers to stick around.

"What's worked really well for the brand is people have come in because of the more joyful, fun side (of our products) and then discover that this is actually good for you," Ryan said. "I always use the analogy that it's like finding out that Skittles are actually healthy for you."

Photo credit: Goodwin Ogbuehi