In 1994, the director of Corporate New Ventures at Procter & Gamble asked the right question:
“There has got to be a better way to clean a floor. Current mops are the cleaning equivalent of the horse drawn carriage – where’s the car?”
The Swiffer was an instant success, chalking up $100 million in sales.
The answer to this question not only reinvented how we clean floors, it changed how we think about the role of design in driving business innovation.
A team of ethnographic researchers set out to watch how people cleaned their kitchen floors, and they discovered:
• Most people swept their floors before they mopped.
• People assemble a system of largely unbranded products to get the job done.
• Mops worked mostly by the adhesion of dirt to the mop and people seemed to spend almost as much time rinsing their mop as they did cleaning the floor.
• People wore old clothes when they were cleaning because it was a dirty job.
Out of this design research emerged an idea that we called “Fast Clean” in consumer testing.
The Swiffer was an instant success, chalking up $100 million in sales during the final 4 months of 1999. In the year after its July 1999 introduction, more than 11.1 million Swiffer starter kits were sold. To this day, Swiffer continues to be Procter & Gamble’s 2nd most popular consumer product, with annual sales of $500 million.