Method

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Method's Eric Ryan (left) and Adam Lowry
Method's Eric Ryan (left) and Adam Lowry
Method, the San Francisco-based purveyor of smartly packaged, eco-friendly home products, isn't so much a company that does creative marketing as one that was born out of creative marketing itself. Founded in 2000 by chemical engineer Adam Lowry and account planner Eric Ryan, "the idea for the company started as a brand concept," according to Ryan, who worked at Fallon/Minneapolis and Hal Riney before launching Method. "It really started from a brand point of view, and then we built a company around that."

That point of view has two parts. On the one hand, Method's products are environmentally sound. On the other, their packaging is impeccably designed—with the help of Karim Rashid—based on Ryan's insight that consumers were ready for home goods that can be left in full view, rather than being hidden under the sink. From the beginning, Method has pursued this vision with innovations in design, marketing, and even business practices and critical and business success has followed. Method made the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing private companies in America in 2006, with revenue growth of more than 3000 percent in just three years. Since then, the company's revenues have doubled again to $71 million. Its approach has influenced a giant category and the giant corporations that have long dominated it. "We're no longer playing to the strengths that these companies have been built on," says Ryan. "They're playing to the strengths that our company has been built on."

Back in 2004, Method gave Crispin Porter + Bogusky an equity stake in the company when the agency took on the account. They parted ways a year ago, but not before CP+B developed ComeClean.com, an online confessional that ultimately won the Cyber Grand Prix in Cannes. Now working with TBWA/Chiat/Day/L.A., Ryan—the agency vet—says Method is "trying to carve out a new model" for its agency relationships. Method itself has a strong in-house creative department, which Ryan thinks is essential to its mission. "Ninety percent of the creative expressions are coming from in-house, which few companies are brave enough—or able—to pull off. I think there is a new model emerging where, to do integrated communications, more and more has to be done well in-house. You've got to work with the agency in a very different way, and it's not easy for agencies to do this." As in-house CD Nate Pence says, "They become employees, basically. They function like they sit inside the walls." Sometimes literally.

Chiat/Day copywriter Robin Fitzgerald, for example, spends several days a week with the client—according to agency president Carisa Bianchi—and has virtually become the voice of Method, having penned everything from employee orientation materials to the company's consumer-oriented "Humanifesto." Says Pence, "They name products. They come up with stories for us. They do a little bit of everything." Method is "different from a lot of [clients] in that they have a lot of clarity and focus in who they are and what they want to do," says Bianchi. "When we started working with them we realized we just had to help them take that idea and package it, but we weren't rebuilding the thinking or the strategy."

Ryan had an idea about what he and Lowry were up against as a small player, and how creative marketing could help them compete. "We're in the unique—or, you could say, stupid—situation of going up against not one Goliath player, but seven Goliath players who have really deep marketing pockets, so we pretty much have to do what money can't buy." And that could include anything, from PR (the pair are constantly featured on TV and in magazines) to events (Method hosted a "Detox Your Home" event in Seattle in October) to books (the company's first title is in the works), all of which fit into Method's media mix. "Everything's media," Ryan says. "Our elevator is media."

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