New Zealand’s B_E_E, which stands for “Beauty Engineered for Ever,” is one of those rare brands that actually breaks away in a product category that is often associated with dull, mundane, me-too marketing. B_E_E has done it in two ways: first, by creating “beautiful things to make life better and save the world,” according to the company, and second, by packaging its products in “talking bottles” that grab a consumer by the neck and don’t let go (more about that in a moment).
The B_E_E brand is described by the company this way: “We believe being green doesn't mean you have to compromise on beauty and performance. So everything we do is designed for pleasure, function and the environment.” Pretty lofty language for detergents and cleaning products, but the company appears to be paying off on its promise. Four years after its founding in 2002, B_E_E had its products on the shelves of some 200 supermarkets and health stores across New Zealand, according to The Dominion Post. In the spring of 2008, B_E_E products became available in select cities in Australia.
B_E_E was the brainstorm of New Zealander Brigid Hardy, who used her combination of experience at consulting firm McKinsey and her degrees in law, English literature and human rights to start a green consumer products company. According to McKinsey, “Since her preliminary research showed that people didn’t think that environmentally friendly products were cool, she decided to create a ‘designer’ green product.” Hardy consulted with perfumers, chemical engineers, and dermatologists to create a green line that includes laundry liquid and powder, delicate fabric wash, whitener, dishwashing liquid, and multi-surface cleaner. The products use the finest ingredients so they cost more, but they are the only products in New Zealand to get “Environmental Choice” certification, a global standard.
The other piece of the puzzle was marketing. Every other product in the category has a prominent brand name, so B_E_E did something entirely different. Instead of naming the products themselves, the company came up with clever “pick up lines” for each and printed them in bold capital letters.
On the Whitener, for example, there are two label variations. One reads: I CARE ABOUT YOU BABY, and in smaller type, WHILE I LOOK AFTER THE ENVIRONMENT. The other promises: I’LL MAKE IT ALL WHITE, and in smaller type, AND I’LL BE GOOD TO THE ENVIRONMENT. One of the Laundry Liquid labels proclaims: I’M ONE TOUGH LITTLE SQUIRT BUT I’M GENTLE ON THE ENVIRONMENT. A Multi-Surface Cleaner label coos: I LOVE YOUR EVERY SURFACE WHILE I CARE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.
The type is color-coded for each product, and the labels are affixed to simple, see-through bottles that are recyclable. The different colors create product lines, while the “talking bottles” provide a consistency so you know these are all B_E_E products. The effect is eye-catching, if not startling. The packaging won a prestigious British Design Week award.
The initial advertising for B_E_E products was equally different and eye-catching. The company ran a series of ads that knocked off the lushly illustrated strong man-beautiful woman book covers of romance novels. However, in each scene, one of the characters was holding a product bottle.
No other products in the detergent or household cleaner aisles look like B_E_E. ECOVER, for example, is a Belgian brand of ecological detergents and cleansing agents sold worldwide, including in New Zealand and Australia. ECOVER’s products carry the brand name, the name of the product, and a photograph of a green leaf on each product label. Seventh Generation, a well-known US ecological brand, depicts a large green leaf, along with other natural imagery such as water and lemons, on each product label. Green Works, a natural brand recently introduced by Clorox, uses a yellow flower against a green background on all the products in the line.
From the environmentally-friendly formulation to the product packaging, Brigid Hardy thinks B_E_E has hit a nerve with New Zealand consumers. “We’ve given out tens of thousands of samples and the majority have been distributed by people who believe in the idea,” Hardy said in an interview with Enhance magazine (Winter 2006). Her experience is supported by research. “Green Cleaning,” a study recently released by worldwide consulting and research firm Kline & Company, indicates that environmentally sustainable products and manufacturing processes are making big gains in the cleaning products industry. “Green cleaning is the predominant theme in the industry,” says Bruce Boynick, industry manager for Kline’s Industrial & Institutional Cleaners practice.
Obviously, B_E_E has taken full advantage of the green phenomenon, while putting its own special spin on getting B_E_E products noticed by consumers. According to McKinsey, by 2005, B_E_E was New Zealand’s top-selling eco-friendly brand. For B_E_E, it’s easy being green.