Marie Kondo: Organizational Guru or CPG’s Latest Villain?

Updated on
May 3, 2024

by Samantha Simmons

In the past few weeks, you’ve likely seen your social feeds filled with photos of organized pantries and sock drawers (hello, co-worker’s underwear!). It isn’t just the “New Year, New Me” mentality. I’m guessing this uptick is due to the wildly popular release of Marie Kondo’s new Netflix series called “Tidying Up”.

You may have heard of the organization guru back in 2014 when she released her English translation of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” She taught us about the KonMari method, to only keep things that “spark joy” and to thank items on the way to the donate pile. She truly is an inspiration to watch (and read). However, there is one thing that I believe will cause a much larger ripple effect than an increase in Goodwill donations.

Is Marie Kondo ruining the CPG advertising industry?

She believes that branded products add ‘noise’ to our lives. Which yes, of course, they do. But when I think of laundry in my home I think two things — orange and the smell of Tide. Why? Because like most Mom’s who need to get stains out — I use Tide. That gigantic neon bottle is just as much a part of my laundry room as my vintage oriental rug and farmhouse color palette. Without it, I’m just a twenty-something, roaming the laundry aisle blind.

An example of ‘removing noise’ in my laundry room would be to take my bottle of Tide and place it into a clear, brand-less container. While this will make my laundry room more Instagram friendly it will also guarantee that my husband will have zero memory recall of what detergent I use next time he goes to the store. All he will associate with laundry at that point is a rich cobalt blue liquid and not that distinctly bright bottle I’ve grown to love.

I realize this example is a specific one, but the risk of asking consumers to throw away all branded items could make them less brand exclusive and therefore cause profits to take a hit.

Bye, Bye, Buy

Being brand agnostic has been on the rise in the past year with companies like Public Goods and the aptly named home goods brand Brandless taking a stab at the CPG marketplace. They’ve marketed themselves as an everyman brand by being minimalistic in nature and playing to the ‘hero’ and ‘innocent’ archetypes. They appear to save the consumer money by ‘eliminating the middle man’ and have a wholesome customer experience.

Of the two, Public Goods has taken a very smart approach to their brand by designing packaging that is distinctive in nature but so minimalistic that it doesn’t make you want to go sans packaging. All of their branding is consistent across product type and includes a beautiful typeface, lots of white space, and simple black accents — where needed. I like to think it’d be Kondo approved.

If you believe that these type of companies is genuinely brand-less, you my friend are mistaken. They’ve got a team of marketers strategically assessing their target audiences and finding what appeals most to them — minimalistic packaging, organic ingredients, and anything that ‘sticks it to the man’… just like every other Consumer Packaged Good brand out there. Procter & Gamble plays to Moms just like Brandless plays to the Millenial audience. Just calling it how I see it.

PS: I’ve tried both Public Goods and Brandless and they both are pretty dang awesome. Highly recommend giving them a try!

“Procter & Gamble plays to Moms just like Brandless plays to the Millennial audience.”

To Whom It May Concern

Marie Kondo has a beautiful and thoughtful approach to maintaining an organized life — one that goes beyond removing clutter and asks us to be intentional in all things that we surround ourselves with. I would be lying if I said she hadn’t caused me to immediately donate about 8 garbage bags of clothes and completely overhaul my closet. I’m genuinely a fan.

I’m writing this not in protest, but as a person who has helped some of the world’s largest brands in their marketing initiatives. I want this to serve as a warning that this is a trend we may see make a larger impact than you’d expect. If these brands don’t get on board soon, they may find their ad dollars in the recycle bins around the world and their products sans branding sitting on the picture-perfect organized shelves in the laundry rooms of Americans.

Lastly, I want to shoutout Nathan Fleming for his insight and feedback on this article. He makes us all better.

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