SANYO's SOAP OPERA

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[TOKYO] Sanyo Electric Co., a world leader in home appliances, scared the wits out of detergent marketers with the world's first zero-detergent washing machine.

Instead of using the water from the device's wash and spin function and detergent to remove dirt from clothing, Sanyo uses ultrasonic waves and electrolyzed water produced by Sanyo's water purifying, bacteria-removing technology.

The new washer had to overcome innate resistance to washing laundry without detergent. Billions of dollars of marketing efforts have drilled into Japanese consumers' collective psyche the need for detergent-and lots of it-to get clothes cleaner than clean and sheets whiter than white.

So Sanyo turned its washing machine into a hybrid: One that washes daily-use clothes such as dress shirts, undergarments, pajamas and towels with the "Zero-Detergent Course," and more soiled clothes, like sweat shirts and jeans, with the "Detergent Course."

Sanyo's agency, Dentsu Osaka, came up with a spot using Hawaiian Sumo wrestler Konishiki. Faced with a huge pile of huge clothes to wash, he sorts them into two piles while saying, "This needs soap, this doesn't." Sales followed quickly. In the five months between the August launch to the end of December 2001, Sanyo racked up sales of 50,000 units. Impressive figures for a washing machine that costs between $900 to $1,000, depending on the model.

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