Procter and Gamble recently unveiled the Swash machine, a clothes refresher that allows people to re-wear their garments without washing. In conjunction with Whirlpool, they have developed a system that deodorises, de-wrinkles, preserves and refreshes clothes in only 10 minutes. As one P&G Director commented it aims to be to the washing machine what the ‘Microwave is to the conventional oven’.
The target audience seems to be those who just don’t have the time for a full wash, don’t have the need for a full wash (how dirty do most ‘professionals’ clothes really get) or who try to extend the lifetime of more special clothes by avoiding laundry.
Following the profitable “Nespresso trend”, P&G’s new business is an integrated system that uses a Pod – cobranded with Tide – to neutralise odour and restore the clothes. These retail at $6.99 for 12 pods – significantly more expensive than a Tide pod for a washing machine. This is a take on the ‘razor and blades’ business style model (where one item is sold at a low price in order to increase sales of a restricted complementary good) but with a twist.
The Swash retails at premium $499, indicating this is intended as an item with its own status and multifunction features which, despite not cleaning, could be extremely appealing to the target professional segment. So just as Nespresso justified a premium price by making the point of comparison a Starbucks coffee, rather than an instant Nescafe, it seems that with the Swash consumers would really be buying speed and care – more akin to (more expensive) dry cleaning than a conventional wash.
At Brand Genetics we believe innovation happens at the edges and the new system definitely taps into some of the emerging trends in clothes washing – or avoidance of washing – that we’ve observed. It remains to be seen whether Swash will help redefine consumers’ washing behaviour or cannibalize other markets, in the way something like P&G’s Swiffer did for home cleaning. But hats off to P&G for doing something to tackle an issue that everyone has recognised but, until now, none have done anything disruptive about.