Fabric Softener Apparently Latest Victim Of Millennials’ Killing Spree

Image courtesy of gregjsmith

Kids these days! Do you know what their problem is? I’ll tell you what their problem is! These whippersnappers just aren’t using enough fabric softener, is what. Why, in my day — wait, fabric softener?

Yes, fabric softener. Procter & Gamble, you see, owns the Bounce, Downy, and Gain brands — and sales of these laundry room mainstays just aren’t where the behemoth conglomerate wants them to be, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The company is pinning the blame — and its hopes — squarely on millennials, everyone’s favorite consumer generation to pick on. (Other things millennials are apparently to blame for lately: not buying enough groceries, buying too much coffee, shopping too much at dollar stores, using phones, not wanting turkeys, confusing Target.)

Pinning down the exact birth years that define the generation is still nebulous, but targeting twenty- and young thirty-somethings is anything but. Those are the consumers who are forming their own households, adult habits, and brand loyalties — and so those are the consumers retailers and household goods companies want to reach.

And since that set of young adult consumers now outnumbers their Baby Boomer parents as the largest generation in the country, comprising about a quarter of the population, it is obviously a huge, moving target for anyone who wants to sell stuff.

But the wants of the rising adult generation don’t necessarily line up with what Procter & Gamble is used to selling, and that’s a problem for the company.

Fabric softener evolved in the 1960s, the WSJ explains, to counter common complaints that machine-washing clothes left them feeling rough or scratchy. In the past 50 years, though, washer tech — as well as detergent tech and fabric itself — has changed.

These days, the WSJ points out, a whole lot of popular athletic gear, a hugely common clothing category, explicitly says not to use fabric softener. And for all the rest of the laundry, consumers simply don’t see as much need.

Add that to a consumer movement that is increasingly concerned about what chemical ingredients go into household products, and it’s the perfect storm for plummeting sales.

To counter that, P&G is trying a new marketing tactic: have you seen “fabric conditioner” lately? Because that’s what the Downy bottle says now instead.

“Conditioning is the most intuitive and familiar way to talk about this benefit for consumers,” a P&G exec told the WSJ. After all, you use hair conditioner, right? So condition all the things!

Apparently it’s working, to some extent; sales are up 5% across all brands as compared to last year.

Millennials Are Fine Without Fabric Softener; P&G Looks to Fix That [Wall Street Journal]