This article is sponsored by Procter & Gamble.
While companies work to reduce their environmental impacts, they also should design their products to help solve consumers’ challenges in a more sustainable way.
A consumer challenge can be defined as a "job-to-be-done," which is simply a problem people are trying to solve. From this perspective, products aren’t just things people buy, but also something they "hire" to solve their problem.
This is important because there is a great opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of a product’s use phases. This is even more critical when such products require water and energy, such as showering, doing laundry or washing dishes. While it’s critical that companies continue to reduce their own operational and supply chain footprints, products also have an important role to play in the creation of sustainable habits at home. Consumer insights shed light into how brand influence and product innovation can inspire new behaviors.
By developing products that perform well and are better for people and the planet, this helps the consumer complete their job more easily, and helps to reduce the corresponding environmental impact. Developing a solution that can deliver performance for people and planet requires a deep understanding of how a person uses a given product and their surrounding environment.
The following outlines how Procter and Gamble (P&G) applies consumer insights to reduce the environmental impact of dishwashing using a three-principal approach. First, P&G studies how people use the product through understanding their surrounding environment; second, develops a deeper understanding of why certain behaviors exist; and finally, leverages the insights in the product design.
1. Zoom out to understand the full picture of the environment the consumer is in
As P&G creates both dish soap and dishwasher detergent, we study handwashing and auto-washing habits. It’s important to put ourselves in the shoes of consumers to understand what’s happening in the kitchen and why so that we can define the job to be done and problem to be solved. That information, powered by additional consumer insights, informs the product requirements for our innovation.
Some consumer behaviors we study include: How often is the sink running? How long do the dishes sit there? How many dishes are washed by hand? What temperature is the water? How much water is used? How many dishes are put into the dishwasher?
These questions and more enable a better understanding of behaviors that use water and energy in the kitchen.
2. Understand how people feel about the task to get to the root of their behavior
Washing dishes is a chore and typically people want it done fast and conveniently. Many busy people state that they feel overwhelmed by the sight of a full sink of dirty dishes. People then adopt compensating behaviors that they think will help them get the job done more efficiently. Some examples:
- Keeping the faucet running in order to save time, resulting in significant water and energy use;
- Soaking dishes to shave off time scrubbing;
- Cleaning dishes on an ongoing basis to prevent stuck-on messes versus doing them all at the end;
- Increasing the water temperature to help dishes dry faster, resulting in increased energy use; and,
- Washing dishes before loading them because they don’t believe the dishwasher will get them clean, resulting in wasted water and energy.
Understanding the why behind the actions — in this case a desire for efficiency combined with a distrust of dishwashers — gives R&D teams ideas for new solutions that foster more sustainable habits.
3. Leverage insights to design products for performance for people and planet
With an understanding of people’s behaviors and the motivation behind them, P&G can then design products to help shift habits while delivering against the job to be done. In this case, the job is fast and effective dish cleaning that avoids resource intensive compensating behaviors.
Through a study of dishwashing habits and the water and energy used, P&G R&D determined that dishwashers should be the preferred choice to reduce environmental impact during the product use phase. All it takes is eight dishes washed by hand to use the same amount of water and energy that a dishwasher uses. Using a dishwasher, people can save 100 gallons a week.
By understanding consumer barriers to dishwasher usage, P&G R&D teams optimized the chemistry in Cascade Platinum Plus dishwashing pods to clean dishes better and eliminate the need for pre-washing or re-washing. The solution conserves resources and helps save time by avoiding soaking or pre-rinsing — people scrape the dish off and immediately load it in.
While dishwashers offer the most sustainability benefits over hand washing, some people don’t have them. Dawn Powerwash was developed to reduce water and energy use for people that hand wash their dishes. The R&D team simplified the experience by avoiding water at the onset of cleaning dishes. The result: refillable packaging and formulation designed to release suds without the need for water to activate them.
Making dishwashing a faster and easier chore can also inspire further sustainable habit adoption, such as cooking and eating more at home.
Innovating a superior and sustainable product
Consumer brands have a responsibility to identify where impact can be made and where they can step in to innovate, leading to a superior and sustainable product that delivers added value.
A science-based approach is important because it shows where the biggest improvement for the environment can be made. A consumer-inspired product is equally important because it results in a satisfied consumer when function and experience is delivered. The two must be merged for a holistic proposition that people want to buy.
When done right, the result is something we can all get behind: products that delight, enable better habits and reduce environmental footprints at home.