Why did the world’s most inclusive deodorant end up being shelved without selling a single unit?

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When Unilever announced the ‘worlds first inclusive’ deodorant, the advertising and design world showered the fast moving consumer goods company with awards.

Degree Inclusive the product was in-fact nominated or awarded 50 global awards before the product even came to market. TV stations featured the product on their news shows, Elle and Forbes ran articles about this revolutionary solution and the company allowed consumers to sign up on its website to hear more.

Teensy Bit Premature

Some might say all this was a teensy bit premature as the product was subsequently canned by Unilever without a single one being sold, and the webpage unceremoniously taken down.

So, what was this new type of deodorant and what went wrong with the insight work?

According to Unilever, the product was designed for people with a whole host of diverse disabilities from limited sight to limited arm mobility. This objective led to the design of a product with a hanging hook, magnetic closures for ease of access and even braille label for those vision impairment.

So what went wrong with it and why did they pull it and abandon the entire direction the design represented?

The clear answer is that their targeting was too broad, and their insight was too generic, something that I warn clearly about when debunking the idea of universal insights.

Exclusive not Inclusive

Essentially Unilever treated disabled people as one large expansive target, rather than a segmented group of individuals who had discreet insights and needs. The global brand leader said “The biggest headline was.. that in trying to be inclusive, we were actually being exclusive”

It seems unsurprisingly that trying to create a single universal insight about disability and accessibility satisfied no one. Many said that the features like the hooked lid was in fact irrelevant to their particular situation. For most the awkward shape made it harder not easier for them to use.

How can a sophisticated company like Unilever try and create a ‘catch all’ value proposition based on such a high level, non-targeted insight? It seems that the allure of that Universal Insight still drives their thinking.

In fairness to Unilever the intention remains good and the desire to create accessible solutions and packaging is laudable. We can only hope that the next attempt will involve clearer segmentation and tighter insights.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Reports suggest that Degree (also known as Rexona globally) are now pivoting the solution to 3D printed accessories which are far more specific to the needs of individual segments of the market.

These will be solutions that consumers can select based on their actual needs and then download and 3D print at home.

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