Why can't laundry be fun? Actually, the better question might be: Why can't packages that are not specifically for kids have a sense of humor? Too often, packaging that is not geared to children is all about functionality and almost never about having a sense of humor or playfulness.
It might be a bit surprising to see that this Persil laundry detergent from Henkel is sold in Germany. This is not, perhaps, where you would think consumers would embrace lightheartedness and frivolity—especially not for laundry detergent.
A place for everything
However, on closer inspection, perhaps this package is ideal for the market in Germany. While it does have a decided sense of whimsy and humor, every aspect about the product package enhances the functionality of the package and simplifies consumer use. The Persil brand is a well-established, mainstream brand of laundry detergent throughout Europe. The new bottle for the Color-Gel detergent is shaped like a waving person, including an upraised arm. The bottle-man's head is blue, and the white bottle has a shirt collar design on it, reinforcing the "little man" aspect of the bottle.
As cute as this is, each portion of the bottle shape (excepting the collar accent) serves a specific function. The downward-facing arm is the bottle's handle. Most detergent bottles of this size (1.35 liter; 1.43 quart) do not have a handle. In this case, the handle helps control the pouring of the detergent with good balance. The waving arm has a twist-off cap and is the spout for pouring. And the little man's head pops off (horrors!) to function as a measuring cup.
The product inside is a fairly straightforward laundry detergent that makes a claim of protecting colored clothing longer than other detergents. Because the functionality of the product inside the bottle is not new and faces a fair amount of competition in the market, the bottle becomes the main selling attraction.
Everything in its place
Henkel is not completely a stranger to whimsical package designs for fairly routine household products. It has taken a similarly tongue-in-cheek approach to in-bowl toilet cleaners. Its WC Frisch brand (which roughly translates to "bathroom fresh"), also in Germany, has appeared in two unlikely shapes. The in-bowl toilet cleaners attach to the inside rim of the toilet bowl and have a liquid cleaner that is dispensed during flushing. In September 2005, the company introduced an extension that looked like a person windsurfing. In January 2007, the company introduced line extensions with packages that look like two people in a kayak.
Is there opportunity for more products with this type of packaging? Perhaps. It may be telling that Henkel has not expanded its humorous package concepts outside of Germany. On the other hand, the company has maintained its sense of humor with more than just this one-off package.
Given the crowded nature of the entire cleaning category in the U.S., it could be that this sort of fun product package may have a place in the market. Henkel owns The Dial Corporation, so it may not be outside the realm of possibility to see a blue-headed waving little man soon in your local supermarket, prompting the uninitiated to think: Wow! What a package!
Lynn Dornblaser is the director of the Custom Solutions Group at Mintel International. She can be reached at 312-932-0400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.