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The need to address sustainability is nothing new for brands; on the radar for decades, but predominantly on the periphery – and all-too-often given lip service. Equally, while the average consumer talked a good game on their own environmental credentials, their purchase behavior often told a different story.
However, recent years have seen a genuine shift in the emphasis being placed on sustainability, with growing consumer demand for eco-friendly products. Increasingly, this demand is being driven by the mainstream rather than ‘green’ minority – even if they do still skew (stereotypically) younger.
Garnier, and parent L’Oreal, are one such company to have made sustainability a priority right from the very top, setting a swathe of corporate goals to reduce their environmental impact. The recent launch of Garnier Ultimate Blends Shampoo Bars reflects the company’s ongoing shift toward sustainable product innovation.
Ultimate Blends provides an interesting case study in that it offers twofold innovation – in terms of both the product format (shampoo bars are an unknown or novelty for most) and environmentally-friendly credentials. We were interested to see if such a significant pivot versus category expectations would spark consumers’ interest, and whether there would be demand for such a product.
To assess its in-market potential, we used our three C’s framework:
The combination of a focus on sustainability, together with an innovative format, proved a truly intriguing and distinctive proposition – with three-quarters of people left feeling ‘inspired’. The eco-friendly claims and packaging were the main drawcards – helping the product stand out, with over half of people favorable toward Garnier’s ‘responsible attitude’. People also gravitated toward the claims of ‘zero plastic waste’ and being ‘94% plant-based’.
That’s not to say the format itself wasn’t also noteworthy; solid shampoo is a niche within the broader haircare category, which meant the concept of bars was perceived as very unique and original (particularly coming from a market leader).
Despite the product format and pack aesthetic being a departure from Garnier’s heartland (leading to the inevitable loss of brand cues), the brand’s salience in the wider shampoo category and ongoing association with bright, colorful ingredients and fragrances ensured Shampoo Bars were still a good fit with the brand.
Leveraging design elements – namely the green highlights and callouts – from Garnier’s broader range also helped reinforce this link, albeit one that was unsurprisingly softer given the transition away from conventional expectations of a bottle format.
Shampoo Bars altered people’s perceptions of Garnier, considering Ultimate Blends modern and eco-friendly, and offering a genuine point of difference. This was built primarily on the foundations of sustainability claims, but was backed up with more functional benefits around the product being longer lasting and using ‘fast-rinse technology’.
As a result, shampoo bars generated significant purchase interest – impressive given its departure from deep-rooted liquid shampoo habits. This appeal was stronger amongst younger people, where the eco-friendly positioning resonated best.
Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of how their shopping habits impact the environment, particularly in terms of plastic waste – which has led to sustainability playing a more important role in their decision making. While there’s no doubt what people say and do is often very (extremely) different, what can’t be denied is that pressure is mounting. The strong potential of Ultimate Blends is a testament to this.
Despite being a shift from Garnier’s heartland, the brand has the legitimacy to play in this space. Not only that, but innovations such as Ultimate Blends help position Garnier as progressive and a leader, raising the standard for which the wider category is held accountable. For brands across all categories, this case study provides a reminder that while behavior sometimes lags behind attitudes, sustainability now isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s actively playing a role in the products people are choosing and decisions they’re making.