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这款洗衣神器竟然能杀人,该怎么破?

Jake Meth 2019年03月01日

彩色的洗衣凝珠成了宝洁旗下的畅销品之一。问题是,太多孩子因此中毒了。

宝洁之类的消费品集团面临着严峻挑战:现在的很多消费者为了省几美元会选择没名气品牌的产品,而宝洁旗下却有大量知名产品。在2010年左右,该问题已经拖累了宝洁的增长。前员工表示,早在1946年就创立的汰渍品牌就是明显例子,在洗衣用品领域已经吸引不了顾客。洗衣凝珠给了宝洁重建汰渍竞争优势的机会。

《财富》杂志采访了宝洁公司的9位前员工,谈了谈汰渍洗衣凝珠的发展情况,各人回忆的历程基本一致。(宝洁多次拒绝采访现任高管的请求。《财富》杂志曾与负责监督凝珠安全工作的高级经理交谈,也与公关团队谈了多次。)按照固定容量包装洗衣液并销售的想法并不新鲜。2001年,宝洁和联合利华就开始在欧洲销售洗衣凝珠,比现在的版本大一些。前员工表示,先前的版本取得了一定成功,洗碗机清洁啫喱球的业绩也不错,宝洁相信更先进的汰渍洗衣凝珠能在北美流行。2004年宝洁开始开发,希望能打造为热门产品。后来宝洁自夸说,接下来8年里,宝洁安排75名员工加入汰渍洗衣凝珠项目,邀请约6000位消费者参与市场调研,制作了超过450份包装和产品草图。

最终定稿后,开发团队都很兴奋。汰渍洗衣凝珠拿起来非常有趣,湿湿软软有弹性。颜色用了汰渍标志性蓝色和橙色,在白色背景上点缀了两点小漩涡,比当时市场上单一颜色的凝珠鲜艳得多。凝珠特地放在透明的盒子里,可以清晰展示亮眼的设计。

“我们当时就知道凝珠会成爆款。”宝洁公司负责织物和家庭护理用品销售的前主管汤姆·费舍尔说,正是该部门负责汰渍凝珠。

2012年2月发售后,证明了公司的判断没错。看起来购物者很喜欢使用上的便利,再加上彩色外形讨喜,销售额猛增。2012年宝洁发布财报时,凝珠刚上市几个月,时任首席执行官鲍勃·麦克唐纳自豪地宣称,凝珠是“过时产品创新”的好例子。根据市场研究机构欧睿国际的数据,2013年(洗衣凝珠在美国市场上市的第一个完整年度)到2018年,汰渍凝珠销售额增长了136%。在此期间,洗衣用品整体增长仅为7%。现在,汰渍凝珠已经占宝洁洗衣剂总销量的近四分之一。

2012年汰渍凝珠上市时有款广告,可以充分体现宝洁的兴奋情绪。广告里,一位女性从敞开的盒子里拿出一颗凝珠,扔到洗衣机滚筒里。背景是气泡爆裂的声音,还有Men Without Hats乐队唱的欢快歌曲“砰砰砰,走向世界”。广告结尾是标语“小泡泡,大出色”。但现在,宝洁不希望任何人把汰渍凝珠跟泡泡破裂联系在一起。

Consumer conglomerates like Procter & Gamble face a daunting challenge: They sell huge portfolios of famous brand names—in an era when many shoppers are happy to buy no-name brands to save a few bucks. By the early 2010s, that problem was becoming a drag on growth at P&G. And former employees say that Tide, a brand that dates back to 1946, was a case in point—no longer luring customers in its commoditized category. Laundry pods offered P&G a chance to restore Tide’s competitive edge.

Fortune spoke with nine former P&G employees about the Tide Pod’s development, and their accounts tell a consistent story about the process. (P&G declined multiple requests to make current executives available for interviews. Fortune spoke with the senior manager responsible for overseeing its pod safety efforts and conducted multiple conversations with the corporate communications team.) The idea of selling liquid cleaning agents in pre-measured packets wasn’t new: In 2001, P&G and Unilever started selling laundry pods in Europe that were larger than today’s versions. Former employees say that given the moderate success of these packets, as well as its dishwasher detergent tablets, P&G was confident that its more advanced Tide Pods would catch on in North America. Beginning in 2004, P&G embarked on a development process that it hoped would turn the product into a hit. Over the next eight years, the company would later boast, P&G dedicated 75 staff members to the Tide Pod project, involved some 6,000 consumers in market research, and generated more than 450 packaging and product sketches.

As the final shape emerged, the development team was thrilled with the results. Tide Pods were fun to hold—squishy, yet firm. Their colors—Tide’s signature blue and orange, in swirl-shaped chambers atop a white backdrop—stood out far more than the single-colored packets on the market at that point. And the pods came packaged in a clear tub, designed to show off the attractive design inside.

“We knew we had a breakthrough product on our hands,” says Tom Fischer, a former P&G executive for fabric and home care sales, the division responsible for Tide Pods.

The pods’ launch, in February 2012, proved them right. Shoppers seemed to love the convenience and the colorful form factor, and sales soared. In P&G’s 2012 annual report, released just a few months after they hit the market, then-CEO Bob McDonald proudly described Tide Pods as an example of “innovation that obsoletes existing products.” Between 2013 (liquid laundry packets’ first full year on the U.S. market) and 2018, pod sales grew 136%, according to Euromonitor International, a market research provider. During that period, the overall laundry detergent category grew just 7%. Today, pods make up close to a quarter of P&G’s overall laundry detergent sales.

A TV commercial that accompanied the Tide Pod launch in 2012 conveys the euphoria. In the ad, a woman draws a pod out of an open case and tosses it into the drum of a washing machine. In the background are sounds of bubbles popping and the upbeat Men Without Hats song “Pop Goes the World.” The spot ends with the tagline: “Pop in. Stand out.” But nowadays, popping is not an image P&G wants anyone to associate with Tide Pods.

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