2010: Ariel, Marketing for Sustainable Consumption, Case Study

Ariel, Marketing for Sustainable Consumption
Ariel | Marketing for Sustainable Consumption


Ariel’s campaign to get consumers to wash clothes at lower temperatures persuaded them that they could do something to battle climate change.

Key insights

  • A strong commitment to promoting sustainability led to a breakthrough campaign which encouraged consumers to save energy by washing at lower temperatures.
  • The second wave of the campaign advanced this message by showing how small steps can make a big difference to the planet.
  • A tightly-integrated approach led to significant change in consumer behaviour in terms of washing temperatures.


Ariel is one of the leading brands in the portfolio of Procter & Gamble (P&G), which markets more than 300 branded products around the world. As a sector leader of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, P&G has an established track record of promoting environmental sustainability through its Live, Learn and Thrive corporate cause campaign and through its brands to ‘ensure a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come’.

The Ariel ‘Turn to 30°‘ campaign, which first launched in 2006, was one of the first P&G brands in the UK to capitalise on mainstream environmental awakening. It promoted washing at 30 degrees rather than the previous standard 40 or even 60 degrees. However, by 2007 there was a much more crowded competitor environment, with retailers and competitors communicating a diversity of sustainable messages and in cases, mimicking Ariel’s original ‘Turn to 30°C’ message.

Nevertheless, the second wave of the campaign in 2007 helped Ariel maintain ownership of the issue in consumers’ minds. Furthermore, it delivered strong volume uplift and contributed to an increase in the number of loads washed at 30 degrees.

Educating consumers to help the planet

October 2007 marked the 170th year that P&G had been in business. Over that time, growth had stemmed from keeping faith with P&G’s core principle of sustainable development: ‘Ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come’. The organisation had a long heritage as a sustainability leader, and remained committed to improving consumers’ lives through its brands and by contributing to the sustainability of the planet and communities in which its employees lived and worked. Over the past decade, P&G had made a significant impact through its ‘Live, Learn and Thrive’ corporate cause campaign and, by using the trusted relationship its brands had with billions of consumers, continued to champion domestic behaviour that contributed to the greater good.

As a brand, Ariel itself had been associated with encouraging the UK’s children to lead an active lifestyle and take up tennis. From 2006 this focus became less social and more environmental in its sustainability messages. Its commitment to reducing packaging and water usage, as well as its dedication to reducing the energy used in the production stage, had made it one of the leaders in its field.

Analysis of Ariel’s Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which measured the product’s environmental impact from cradle to grave, showed that the highest amount of energy was used in the home: heating the water in the wash cycle. In response to this, in 2006 Ariel developed a message which emphasised the importance of washing at lower temperatures — 30 degrees C — to help ‘do a good turn’ for the environment.

Before the launch of this campaign, consumers believed that they needed to wash at high temperatures in order to get good results, which proved an entrenched barrier to adopting more sustainable cold-cleaning behaviours. However, Ariel’s superior Cold Clean technology meant consumers benefited from excellent cleaning at low temperatures, while still saving energy and promoting more sustainable laundry practices (Figures 1 and 2).

Broadening the message of sustainability

In year two of Ariel’s ‘Turn to 30°’ campaign, Ariel challenged consumer perceptions even further on this point, which in effect also helped with an increase in differentiation and branded recall. This route provided a meaningful improvement to the business in terms of energy efficiency by spreading a ‘sustainable behaviour’ message generally.

The decision to run the campaign in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust (EST) for a second consecutive year was important in bringing about long-term behavioural change but brought fresh communication challenges for the brand team
as well.

Ariel’s challenge was not only to educate consumers that they could get good results at low temperatures, but to widen the context by creating direct links between energy saving and climate change (communicating the small steps we can take to make a difference) and thus generate a much stronger, more high profile call to action while still inspiring and empowering consumers.

Integrating for maximum impact

The messages were complicated and needed a tailored approach, so communications planning ensured that different media communicated different messages, which ultimately added up to a totally integrated plan centred around one central call to action. (Figures 3 and 4)

The success of the second wave campaign stemmed from:

  • Using a variety of media to emphasise the different aspects of the campaign while maintaining a balance of the media mix so that the overall message of ‘Turn to 30°’ was still clear.
  • Using the website as the central hub of the campaign — important for the green audience to feel that their contribution was part of a broader commitment.
  • Leveraging TV to communicate complimentary, multi -messages with striking creative on global issues followed by personal testimonials from well-known faces linked to washing and energy saving to enforce the call to action.

There were a number of specific activities.

  • The internet was the central hub of the campaign. It was a bespoke site to support all campaign messaging (doaqoodturn.co.uk) and served as an interactive hub to track and inspire information-seekers on sustainability issues.
  • TV copy (30” and 10”): ‘polar ice caps’ communicated energy-saving and the message of Ariel performance in a striking, poignant way and generating a call to action, while celebrity endorser Helena Christensen encouraged the nation to turn to 30°.
  • Packaging: a limited edition Ariel packaging revived from the previous campaign provided a call-to-action for consumers.
  • EST partnership: Ariel maintained the partnership with the EST to quantify credible energy-saving benefits of washing at 30°C. The EST logo was communicated on TV, packaging, in media partnerships, through public relations and online.
  • Media partnerships: with core press, online and broadcast media to provide cleaning reassurance and deliver complex sustainability messages.
  • Media relations: with the support of the EST, Helena Christensen, Joanna Yarrow and Oliver Heath, speaker placement opportunities occurred in prestigious green pages, and with journalists renowned for their focus on energy saving in the home.
  • Road show: 10 key UK shopping centres were visited by the Ariel ‘Do a Good Turn’ house. Visitors could explore a sophisticated mock-up of an energy-efficient house and obtain tips and advice. Energy doctors from the EST were on hand to complete free and personalised energy-saving audits of their home. Consumers were encouraged to sign up to ‘do a good turn’. A partnership with local radio stations and local media relations increased awareness and boosted footfall.
  • In-store: there was additional activity in various retailers to support the initiative and communicate the energy-saving message.

For the second wave campaign, all resources where possible were made from recycled materials or sustainable forestry, while the entire campaign was carbon offset.

Making a big difference

The Ariel ‘Turn to 30°’ second-wave campaign stood out because:

  • It engaged with and encouraged consumers to see how doing a simple thing at home could help the planet.
  • It served to create a sense of belonging around small-step activism by building a communal membership centred around Ariel’s pledge website. This was particularly important for the ’green audience’ that made up 64% of the population. They wanted to do something for the environment but were often discouraged if they thought that no one else was bothering or that their small change didn’t add up to have a significant impact. A sense of group mentality was instilled through the ‘Turn to 30°’ website, which tracked pledges and provided regular news feeds of sustainability-related information.

Data from the Habits and Practices Study showed that before the start of the campaign, only 2% of wash loads in the UK were washed at 30 degrees. By the end of Ariel’s ‘Turn to 30°’ second wave, customer perceptions had been successfully changed as shown by an independent survey conducted in August 2007, which revealed that since Ariel’s bid to get the nation to wash at 30°:

  • 48% of women linked Ariel with washing at 30°.
  • Nearly half of the UK population claimed that the Ariel campaign had made them more likely to try washing at 30 degrees with Ariel.

In addition to this, independent research by IPC Green Matters 2007 attributed high brand linkage between Ariel and 88% of those that now washed at 30°C. This highlighted that, despite a more competitive marketplace, a combination of credible messaging, an enhanced message and stakeholder and customer support paid dividends for the second wave of the Ariel ‘Turn to 30°’ campaign.

The campaign was thus not only responsible for consistent behavioural change and volume sales uplift since, but received widespread stakeholder and industry accolade for putting energy saving on the mainstream agenda.

Continuing the crusade

Since the ‘Turn to 30°’ campaign, the Ariel brand has continued its leadership in encouraging sustainable consumer behaviour in the laundry category. Launched in 2009, Ariel Excel Gel is a breakthrough detergent designed from scratch to deliver outstanding cleaning even at low temperatures and can clean as well at 15°C as at 60°C. To find the optimum formulation for the brand, over five million formulations were tested by R&D experts, with only 30 meeting the success criteria. This provided the ultimate mix of ingredients to form a stable and high-performing gel.

In fact, Which magazine called this new formulation better than any other laundry detergent ever tested, even at a much lower temperature.

Washing at low temperatures is the single most important thing people can do to lower CO2 emissions while doing laundry. Cold-water washing campaigns such as the Ariel ‘Turn to 30°’ have helped cut 58,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions by educating consumers to save energy.


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