Is Fairy Liquid a false economy?

I’ve just seen an ad for Fairy Liquid, which talks about how the higher concentrate and cleaning power of Fairy liquid makes it a better buy, subtly implying this works even at a higher price. I was mulling this over, and I have to congratulate it for sheer marketing genius.

It reminded me of the probably apocryphal story of the toothpaste factory meeting where they were discussing how to increase sales. The problem was everyone already used toothpaste, so how do you sell more, other than simply grabbing market share from your competitors? One bright spark came up with the idea of making the toothpaste tube hole 10% bigger; this way you sell the same amount of toothpaste yet it’s used quicker, so people re-buy more quickly, and you make more. Clever innit?

My guess is selling concentrated washing up liquid works a very similar way: as correctly stated you need very little of the liquid to get enough suds for a sink-full. Yet does this mean we only squeeze a little? Human nature means that if we’re used to squeezing one big squirt, and now we’re told to use a quarter of that, we’ll never cut down that much – it doesn’t seem right. Maybe we’ll just use half what we did previously.

Thus by selling concentrate, while it may be more powerful (I’m no suds expert so I have no way to validate that claim) we now use quite a bit more than is needed, so the bottle runs out more quickly, and is likely to mean we get less sink-fulls per penny – and thus need to buy more liquid. Of course I’ve no scientific evidence (and I have a dishwasher!) but it wouldn’t surprise me if those clever Proctor and Gamble product people had carefully calculated all this.

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