Pears clear soap is a product consisting of a 221-year-old formula. It is also the world's first registered brand, and boasts a loyal customer base.
Recently Pears decided to change its age-old formula, changing and extending the number of ingredients and adding chemicals. The original Pears soap contains just eight ingredients, including rosemary and thyme extracts and “Pears fragrance essence”. The new soap replaced these with 24 new ingredients.
Customers labeled the new soap as “smelling and feeling disgusting”. The new soap, which is made in India, smelled strongly of frankincense, rather than the old “mild and spicy herbal fragrance”.
When customers found out that most shops were only selling the new variety, they started a Facebook campaign to force the makers of Pears Transparent Soap to abandon a new recipe after claims the formula. The group, called Bring Back The Original Pears Soap, was achieved what it wanted - the owners of the brand Hindustan Unilever Ltd (based in Mumbai) have agreed to produce something “much closer to the old soap” from March 2010.
The Pears case teaches us some important marketing lessons:
- If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. If customers are happy with the product, don’t try to change it.
- Brand loyalty. Pears has built a loyal customer base throughout the ages and over generations based on its unique product.
- Customers are active and vocal. In the age of Web 2.0, customers have the power to use social networks to get their point across. Journalists pick up stories from social networks; hence the impact of the small Facebook group.