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Chemically enhanced cleaning solutions29th of October 2013
Chemical companies not only have to come up with products that will effectively carry out the job for which they are intended – they also have to make sure that those products both look and smell attractive to persuade the customer to buy. Ann Laffeaty asks companies how they enhance their products to make them more fragrant and aesthetically pleasing.
When choosing a chemical cleaning solution, the most important factor to consider is whether or not the product is going to work. But what makes people choose one unknown product over another? And if several products do more or less the same job as each other, why opt for Product A and not Product B?
It seems that the look of the product – both the chemical itself and the packaging that houses it –plays a major part in persuading people to buy. If a chemical manufacturer were to offer a customer a foul-smelling, colourless gloop in a plain plastic bottle, that customer is unlikely to be impressed – even if the product happened to be the most effective solution on the market.
And according to some manufacturers, the smell of the product is at least as important as its appearance. This is certainly the case as far as Bio-Productions’ managing director Mike James is concerned. “In some cases we have given a customer two or three samples of the same product but in different fragrance and colour options, and they have said: ‘I like this one, but not that one’,” he said. “So the colour and smell of a product can actually be the factors that convince a customer to buy.
“People want their products to be sexy. They want their concentrates to have some body to them - and customers seem to have a built-in resistance to chemical solutions that don’t happen to smell right.”
According to James the fragrance preferences of Bio-Productions’ customers are changing all the time. “I could say, for instance, that certain customers prefer aromas that are fruity, spicy or floral - but by the time the article comes out the market will have already moved on,” he said.
Spicy aromas are currently popular in Africa and India, he says. “Citrus and lavender smells are also coming back into fashion and the sharp, fruity fragrance of wild berries is currently quite popular. And many people today tend to like a minty smell in the washroom.”
Colour is also important to Bio-Productions’ customers, says James. “The fact that we now have translucent trigger spray bottles means people are looking for the products themselves to have sexier colours,” he said. “Sometimes the application of the product influences the colour: for example, people tend to like red products in the washroom and green for general food use to tie in with the colour-coding system.”
Appearance and smell
He adds the appearance and smell of chemical products for cleaning purposes have always been important to customers. “You have to market the product,” said James. “If your product happens to be a better colour and in smarter packaging than that of your rivals, the customer is more likely to pick it up and use it. Otherwise someone has to sell the advantages of the product to the customer, and this takes time and effort.”
He adds that the smell only really becomes important after the customer has chosen to buy the product. “The customer can’t exactly open the packaging before buying it to smell the substance inside – but they are more likely to re-order if they like the aroma.”
Ecover’s business to business product and brand manager Lies Marijnissen says her company’s customers tend to put product efficacy and usability at the top of their list of priorities.
“A good dosing system is also important,” she said. “But besides these factors, we do notice a good-looking label and a fresh design are much appreciated.”
Marijnissen says Ecover tends to match the colours of its products to tie in with industry standards. “We use blue for Interiors; red for sanitary areas and green for floors,” she said.
“Attractive packaging is also important to represent the quality of the product. But professional cleaning products also need to display clear user information, and this means that usage and dosing icons and colour coding are very important.”
She adds fragrance also has a key part to play in customer satisfaction. “We have noticed that our Floreal Fresh all-purpose cleaner is highly preferred by customers due to its flower perfume,” she said.
According to vice manager marketing of Dr Schnell Chemie Franz Felbermeir, the smell of a product tends to be more important than either its colour or consistency. “We actually employ someone whose task it is to perfume our products and we find aroma preference varies from country to country,” he said. “For example, Germans tend to favour lemon-scented products while southern countries prefer the smell of chlorine and Scandinavians like fruity aromas.”
He says the top priorities of Dr Schnell when formulating products is that they should be ecologically sound and economical in use, while also having a pleasant, though subtle, scent. “Once factors such as economy, environmental friendliness and scent have all been considered we then look at providing products to our customers in an attractive format,” he said.
He adds that the focus for product labelling is that it should be clear and concise rather than attractive in order to assist those customers who have allergies. “The packaging is not so important in terms of its appeal, but only so far as it benefits the users,” he said.
And according to Felbermeir, customers even have a preference when it comes to the texture of their chemical products. “Customers tend to prefer liquid products if the usage location allows, for example if there are no vertical surfaces,” he said.
“We try to avoid viscous products, too, because they require thickening agents which compromises the spontaneous dissolving power. Gel products also need to be rinsed several times with clean water to remove product residue.”
Director of marketing for Charlotte Products/Enviro-Solutions Jennifer Meek says the company’s first focus when developing any product is its efficacy. “The three key factors that matter most to end customers are performance, green certification and cost effectiveness,” she said. “We want our products to work and to be a ‘solution’ for cleaning professionals and building managers.”
According to Meek, these three factors are inextricably interconnected. “For instance, a green product may be certified and effective but if it is considerably more expensive than a non-green product that is designed to be used for the same purpose, most facility managers will have a difficult time rationalising the added costs.”
As far as packaging is concerned, she adds the company is more focused on ensuring that this is as sustainable as possible rather than making it aesthetically pleasing to end users. “The materials we select often come from recycled sources and are themselves recyclable,” she said.
“We also encourage our customers to select products in large containers since not only can this represent a cost saving for them, but it also helps to cut down on packaging materials which again helps to promote sustainability.”
She adds that while colour can be important when branding a product, it is not a factor that matters a great deal to the company’s customers. “What does play a role is the product’s odour,” she said.
According to Meek, most customers tend to opt for chemicals that either have no odour at all or a faint, pleasant aroma. “They do this because it has less impact on indoor air quality,” she said.
So even though one should never judge a book – or indeed, a cleaning product – by its cover, it does appear that cosmetic factors such as colour and packaging have a key role to play in a customer’s product selection. But woe betide the manufacturer who fails to take the product’s fragrance into consideration.