Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, co-authors of The Method Method: 7 Obsessions that Helped Our Scrappy Start-Up Turn an Industry Upside Down and co-founders of Method home products joined the show recently.
You can listen here.
You can read Part One here.
How good is this book? I won't write notes in the margin, nor will I turn down a corner of a page to mark something. That would touch on sacrilegious. That's almost over the top, but it's not. This is a great book.
If you're in a startup, a small company, a mid-sized company, if you're in a department within a big company getting ready to launch something new...you should read this. And make sure you have a notepad handy. Seriously. Even if you just like good writing...you should read this.
Tell us about your new friend Nathan, who you refer to as your helpful ally, loving adversary, and ideal brand advocate.
Eric: He’s not a new buddy, he’s an old buddy. He’s been around since pretty early in the business.
We’re very fortunate and of course we use it as a barometer check for how we’re doing with inspiring advocates. You know, if we can’t get people to really fall in love with the Method brand and the philosophy we’re putting out there, then we’re not doing our job. So, we’re lucky to have many of those individuals.
Nathan was one who was so excited about what we were doing, he was kind enough to start a blog dedicated to it. And by no way did we ask him to do that, did we pay him to do that. This is just purely out of love as a fan.
I guess it’s kinda similar to sports. Fans have the right to applaud you and cheer you when you’re doing well. And they have the right to tell you when you could be doing better.
Adam: Yeah, they act as a mirror to your performance. And I think that’s incredibly important.
When you first discovered Nathan's lust for Method, what was your reaction?
Eric: It was pretty cool. The thing we were amazed on is how detailed he would get and how insightful he would get. I would often go to his blog for inspiration for new ideas. He just articulated it so well.
That’s fantastic. I think a lot of brands ignore these fan pages. What’s the thinking on why they would do that? Or do we even know or care?
Eric: You know, I don’t know. I came from an advertising background so I would speculate that a lot of it comes from organizations unlike ourselves aren’t as passionate about what they do.
The reason we get excited about Nathan is he’s passionate, we’re passionate. And there’s kind of no walls between who we create for and ourselves as consumers. In bigger corporations it may be more distant. But there isn’t just that pure excitement that’s shared.
I think there’s also the hesitation of reaching out to something like that on a media stage. There’s the fear of saying something wrong or doing the wrong thing. You’ve got to be completely comfortable with authenticity and transparency. You know, we know we may say something that is really good and we may say something that you disagree with. And that’s ok, because at least we’re out there talking.
Nathan and your ad budget, or its lack, and The Big Shift from paid media to earned media all describe the difference between P&G/Unilever and Method or the difference between a mass-market brand and a belief brand. What is that difference between mass-market and belief brands?
Eric: The difference is that mass market brands, of course, have been built to appeal to the broadest audience. And when they do that , obviously you need to bring it down to the lowest common denominator of what everybody may like about a product but not what they necessarily love about a product.
So, for example, if you’re selling a glass cleaner you need to bring it down to a single attribute which is streak free because what do most people look for when they’re choosing a glass cleaner which is to leave no streaks. And the difference between that and a belief brand is we sell a particular philosophy or point of view.
Ben and Jerry’s is another great example. They don’t build their ice cream off of a single attribute of taste or quality. Instead it’s the experience of what they stand for.
That’s the way we approach it. We want the consumer to be part of what we’re doing and believe in what we’re doing. And we’re not selling a product attribute; we’re essentially selling a way of looking at the world.
Another great answer. Thanks so much.
Here in America, we're the land of opportunity. Aim for the stars, Kid. No limits to what we can do, so shoot for big. You say the exact opposite. Aim Small and Over-serve. Why has that worked for you in rowing your company and disrupting a well-entrenched billion dollar market?
Adam: Well, if you want to run a mile you’ve got to take one first step. And, our aspirations are very large. But we learned a long time ago that you can’t focus on the finish line. You can’t focus on that big goal and winning that big prize. You need to focus on the things you need to do in order to win that big prize. thethings you need to do to take that next step down the road.
And for us that really is about focus. And what aiming small and over-serving means is we’re going to make the best darn cleaning product that money can buy. If we do that, and we serve those people that are interested in the very best...and we do that as well as we possibly can then that’s going to be something that over time is going to be much more appealing to a much larger group of people.
And there is an inherent irony in it, that the way to get big is to stay small and focus. But, as long as you stay small and focus and you continually get better every day and you build that thinking into the way that you do things then the great thing about getting better is that eventually you become the best.
You used your own savings to launch method. Now, speaking of aiming small and overserving, you spent 50% on designing your product. Why did you devote so much of your startup budget to design?
Adam: It was pretty simple, really. People don’t buy the marketing, they buy the product. And for us, our product is the differentiator. Our product is better. It’s superior to the other things on the market.
And so we wanted to invest in rather than trying to manipulate people’s perception about a product that was ordinary, we wanted to build just simply a better product. And that meant putting in as much money as we had into making it the best product that we could.
Eric: Yeah, when you look at other consumer products that broke out over the past several decades, packaging was the primary marketing vehicle. - particularly when you are starting out without so much of a marketing budget. So, Altoids had their tin can. Absolut had their minimalist bottle. Red Bull had the slim can. And for us we wanted to create a really iconic package that would ultimately serve as our marketing vehicle.
You've carried that passion for design into all areas of your company particularly the design of your offices. Tell us a little bit about the design of your offices and why it's so important to your success.
Eric: So, I came from advertising where I always grew up believing that great environment design would have a great influence on the work. I saw, working in other agencies, what a good office design can do to to help you recruit talent and what a good design can help you not feel so bad when you were working late hours or screaming to get out of your ugly office or your Dilbert cube - you actually enjoyed being in your environment.
And we also so how it opened up creativity and imagination and collaboration. And so for us, even in the very beginning and we chose our office space even though we had no money by no means were we spending a lot of money on it. We chose a space that was inspiring - it was an old Victorian house on Union Street. When we did our first build-out a couple of years later we always made sure we had a high sense of aesthetic.
The thing that always blows my mind is that when you go into a lot of companies that have a creative or a design department there will always be that one design floor or that one design area that’s really cool. But then the rest of the area will be completely detached from it. When you walk into Method we don’t have a design floor. The entire company feels like a design company from the lobby to the bathroom to any department within here, even our other offices.
Now, you're manufacturing soap right. Manufacturing is all about Six Sigma and Lean and economies of scale, efficient processes and all that. But you insisted on building a workspace that inspired creativity in design. How do you balance those two dynamics?
Eric: Well, first, we tried to invent 7 Sigma. We spent a lot of time on it. But once we realized we couldn’t beat Six Sigma Adam came up with some other ideas.
Adam: Yeah, both are important. We do manufacture soap. Method is a place of wonderful tensions. We have wonderful tensions between low-cost and high-design, between creativity and discipline. Those are universal. Those are skills that really every business must have.
For us, we bring those together into one space. We have people that are focused on low-cost; we have people that are focused on high-quality, people that are focused on sustainability and high-design. We create an environment and Eric and I work on this explicitly, personally, every day. That it creates an environment where collaboration can occur between these seemingly opposite ends of spectrum in a way where we can create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.
And it is a little bit of the special sauce of Method. It is something we talk a lot about in the Culture chapter and exactly some of the techniques we use to manage those tensions. And we pretty much work on it every day. In any given day, we’re not going to get it perfectly right. But we’re constantly focused on it and we’re asking:
“How do we get better?”
The good news is we have 10 years of practice at it.
10 years? You guys have been around for 10 years?
Yeah, a little more than that.
Part Three will be published Friday, November 4 Saturday, November 5.