Soft Scrub’s two new cleaning products—Total Bath & Bowl and Total Kitchen—are the brand’s first “all-purpose” bathroom and kitchen cleaners introduced to the category. For this design project, it was imperative that consumers clearly understood the advantages offered by the unique structure and spray trigger. In addition, the new bottle design had to achieve critical manufacturing, cost, and distribution requirements.
In recent years, Henkel has been evolving the Soft Scrub brand graphically and functionally to reach new customers. Wendy Warus, v.p. of brand management and commercialization for homecare at Henkel, believes that they have come up with the right combination of formulation and functionality in these two products. A key moment came when the Henkel team realized that they could essentially marginalize the now-customary toilet bowl cleaner bottle with the angled nozzle.
“We came up with the Holy Grail of bathroom cleaners,” says Warus. Soon after that realization, Henkel began developing a similar kitchen-oriented product in the same package. The Henkel team asked Tirso Olivares Design, a package design innovation company located in Chicago, to design a spray bottle structure for the new “total” bathroom cleaner, and then asked CBX, a international strategic brand-building firm, to convey all the benefits of the new products verbally and visually on the shrink-sleeve label.
Testify to simplify
The question from the outset at Henkel was: “How do we simplify the consumer’s bathroom cleaning routine?” Historically, spray bottles have been a useful but unattractive household cleaning tool. With Soft Scrub’s innovative bottle design, the common spray bottle has been elevated into new territory within the bathroom cleaner category.
Tirso Olivares designed the spray bottle structure for this new bathroom cleaner to achieve a number of goals. The category-leading bottle design features a unique angled neck and spray trigger that allows consumers to spray right-side-up and upside-down, providing ergonomic benefits during application.
To meet the design and marketing challenges, Olivares created a bottle structure that quickly communicates the ease of use and spray application of the product. The angled neck is unique on shelf and ergonomic in its comfortable feel and use in directing and squeezing the spray nozzle in all directions.
The neck angle allows the consumer to hold the bottle intuitively in its most effective position without flexing, extending, or rotating the wrist and tiring the hand during squeezing and spraying. The angle design also suggests to new users an upsidedown usage proposition and ergonomic benefits when rotating the arm and wrist, such as when spraying under the toilet bowl rim.
Olivares designed the neck to integrate the spray nozzle visually, creating a unified combination of stock and custom package components. The patented trigger uses a spray screen that allows consumers to clean using either a powerful foam for tough stains or a wide spray for large areas.
Consumers can switch between the two by simply flipping the screen. Pictograms displayed on the nozzle’s top surface clearly instruct its operation. Olivares designed the new opaque, white HDPE Soft Scrub spray bottle to communicate energy, efficacy, and modernity with ergonomically curved grip surfaces and soft dimensional ridges at the shoulder and base for a large label panel. The goal for the bottle design was to meet the expectations of Soft Scrub brand users, conveying effective cleaning and providing consumers with a better application experience and emotional payoff when they experience the ergonomic benefits of the unique package.
A multitude of benefits
When Olivares completed his structural design task, Henkel handed the bottle over to the CBX brand design firm to design the graphic and text elements for the full shrink sleeve label. Rick Barrack, chief creative officer at CBX, was glad to have both a unique shape and large canvas on which to communicate as many benefits as possible.
“We wanted to leverage the strong silhouette,” says Barrack, suggesting that the upward-swinging arc that cuts across the entire bottle could even convey efficacy to the consumer. “We wanted to celebrate the cadence of the bottle.”
The synergistic graphic design clearly conveys the product category while pointing out benefits at appropriate places on the bottle. The main distinguishing features of this new product are near the top, and the “where to use” indications are at the bottom. “We tried to be as succinct and telegraphic as possible while minimizing clutter,” Barrack explains. In a way, the benefits from top to bottom are in order of importance as selling points to the consumer.
The upside-down functionality of the bottle is cleverly illustrated with a small iconic graphic of a bottle being spun upsidedown. This neck benefit is close to the “use area,” where the nozzle is and where the user grips it. “How it works is near the experience,” Barrack emphasizes. “Being telegraphic with that was a positive.”
CBX was not charged with updating the Soft Scrub logo, which Henkel has been evolving, but the firm did contribute the oval “staging device” where the logo lives on this bottle. Barrack says that oval staging area allowed the brand to work harder for them. Secondary colors in the oval, for example, tie into the scent differentiation indicators.
Researching the reach
Henkel’s Warus says that their research asked consumers a pointed question: “Could one product really do it all in the bathroom?” The multifunction trigger—foam or spray, and upside-down operation—produced an “a-ha” moment where consumers got it about one product doing it all.
Olivares recalls the research findings that influenced his final structural design, including the fact consumers view spray bottles as tools. There are few packages that are designed for consumers that need multiple applications. So the use experience of the new package is an improvement to create a positive emotional connection with the brand.
In focus groups, consumers felt that the bottle design was unique and that it communicated a “most effective” product. The new bottle design best communicates the concept statement—primarily under-rim toilet bowl cleaning—with its unique shape. “When test subjects saw the angled neck, it communicated to them that they could use it upside-down,” Olivares says. “It was very intuitive.”
Olivares believes the sweeping swooshes of the graphic design also communicate to the consumer the ease of turning the bottle in any direction. He was also pleased with the execution of the shrink sleeve, which hugged the gripping area and even accentuated the small nubs he had added on the back of the gripping area.
CBX paid close attention to consumer testing that revealed that more literal graphics and benefit statements always work better in the cleaning products category. The secondary background graphic at the bottom, for instance, shows the “total bathroom” or “total kitchen,” reinforcing the product’s new proposition. “This package left no question for the consumer about how to interact with the product,” concludes Barrack.