Thursday, 16 June 2011

No Madness in This Method

How method is challenging the big guys

There’s a clue that things are a bit different when you enter method’s uber cool San Francisco office.

I think I’ve just seen about the best example of a company actively and successfully disrupting a big market.  Method is a 100 strong 10 year old business, actually it’s not a business; it’s a cause.  Led by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry method is revolutionising the world of household cleaning with it’s colourful well-designed products and sustainability story.  As Adam said “it’s not enough to be green; you’ve got to perform as well”.  Method is growing in leaps and bounds in the US and in the UK.  I can’t do their branding and communication justice here – check for yourself at

So what’s the formula for attacking a market held for decades by the likes of P&G and Unilever?  Competitors 1000 times the size.  My analysis of what’s working so well at method is:

1.   They’ve got a good idea:  The root of all innovation.  Design + no compromise ‘green’ cleaning power.  You pay 15% to 20% extra for this, and why not, simple.

2.   They’ve got focus:  The business does marketing, R&D, sales and innovation.  All else is outsourced.  This cuts out huge distraction.

3.   They’ve built a culture that supports continuous innovation:  Here are a couple of method’s values – ‘What would MacGyver do’ (this means ‘be super resourceful’) and ‘Keep method weird’ (this means have fun, be irreverent, stay fresh).  Couple these engaging values with the warrior spirit I saw in Adam (he talks about Method proving business can create social change and that competitors can ‘copy all that they do but they’ll never copy our culture’ – stirring stuff!) and you have a formidable force capable of defeating an army many times it’s size.

4.   Finally – they’re fast – really fast.  Whereas some companies will do research and then start a development programme method turns this on it’s head.  They are their consumers so they make a prototype (3d model, overnight), have a play with it, do it again and then ‘audition’ with some consumers.  This way they can cycle through maybe 20 iterations of a new product in the time it would take a large organisation to do one.  Having everyone sit in an open plan office with every idea on display accelerates the development process further.

All this is pretty impressive.  The question of course for big corporates is whether they can ever mimic the things method seem to be getting so right.  I think the answer is maybe, but you need a cause – something that means more than the job to you, you need distance from the mother-ship, you need a long term perspective and you need a good idea.  If you have all those things then just maybe a supertanker can act like a speedboat.