Wisk Is Funny -- And It Cleans Your Clothes, Too

I like my dental floss to break into song at random intervals, my ketchup to dazzle me with its knowledge of paleontology and my napkins to be fluent in no fewer than three romance languages. Thus it stands to reason that I expect big things - spiritual things, wondrous things, common-humanity-affirming things - from my laundry detergent. Unfortunately, while my current brand has value as street currency, it does little to delight and galvanize me. All it does is de-funkify post-workout clothes that, were I blessed with a limitless supply of stretchy activewear, would either be burned or sent to the CDC for potential use in chemical warfare. Where's the fun in that?

Smartly attuned to this yawning personality chasm in the detergent marketplace, Wisk has bolstered its value propositionessicity with a handful of clips that are intended to provoke, to enlighten, to challenge. Sure, the clips all but announce, Wisk can get your clothes clean, as can any number of other detergents. But can those other detergents make you giggle like a gigglepuss?

That, in a nutshell, is Wisk's strange and fairly bold branding gambit. With these web videos and ads, it's positioning itself as the "funny" detergent, the brand that self-deprecates as it sanitizes. I'd label that a borderline insane strategy - if there's an academic out there who can prove me wrong with hard, mean data about the import of emotional attachment within the context of human/detergent relationships, I'll apologize and totally rethink my opinion of academia's utility - but the campaign is exceedingly self-aware and, yes, funny. It feels like somebody on Wisk's marketing team took a look at Tide's continued dominance and said, "What the hell. Can't hurt, right?"

Do you remember any of Wisk's previous marketing/branding approaches? I don't. I assume they targeted moms (because dads spontaneously combust if they uncap a container of detergent, much less attempt to decipher the sphinx-like riddle that is a circa-21st-century washing machine). The ads probably went something like this: an adorable scamp enters a brightly lit kitchen, his pants muddy after a vigorous game of hide-and-seek in the yard. The fetching thin mom shoots him an oh-you! glance, balls up his jeans and puts them in the washer (cue dirt-dispersal animation), and voilà! Clean pants and more hide-and-seek and suburban bliss and gosh better get dinner on the table for when dad gets home from his big important job place.

Compare this with the best of Wisk's current clips: a trailer to a faux documentary, "Inside Dirt: The Dirty Truth About Your Clean Laundry," which manages to amuse without burying the lede (that Wisk will clean the living dickens out of your soiled garments). The trailer commences with our bold documentarian dude proclaiming a "state of detergency… that is trademarked." In short order, it features any number of muckraker mainstays (security-camera footage, footage of the documentarian being told to shut off the cameras by a hostile subject, etc.) and a handful of deliberately out-of-place action sequences (the dude involves himself in a golf-cart chase and gets mace'd in a Laundromat).

The Wisk campaign is thus notable for what it is as much as what it isn't. Will consumers award bonus points for cleverness? Probably not. That's likely why the clip adds a bit of "science," in the form of a clean shirt that, when bathed in blue light, reveals extant pockets of snot and pore juice. That amounts to one of the slyer message moments tucked into an online brand video in some time.

So while I remain skeptical about the campaign's sales/brand preference upside, the clips made me laugh and made me reassess whatever thoughts I once had (read: none) about the Wisk brand. While it won't prompt me to pour my Tide down the sink and declare myself a detergent free agent, it gives Wisk an identity - unlike, I might add, every other non-Tide detergent on the marketplace. That's not the complete victory Wisk wants, but it's something.

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3 comments about "Wisk Is Funny -- And It Cleans Your Clothes, Too".
  1. Sara Mayer from Sun Products Corporation , March 1, 2013 at 10:37 a.m.
    Dear Larry, A brilliant read. Let us take a stab at defunkifying your post-workout clothes…. We’re sending you some Wisk. Thanks for the laugh! The Wisk Team
  2. Erick Brownstein from Channel Factory , March 1, 2013 at 9:06 p.m.
    Larry. As usual, great article. If a primary goal is to give a brand an identity...and it's hard to have a relationship with something that has no identity...then I agree...job well done. Not easy for a CPG company to do something that actually makes me laugh.
  3. Ian Kidnew from M2 Universal , March 8, 2013 at 4:12 p.m.
    Larry, don't know if you were just playing the moment when you mentioned that you do not know of any previous campaigns from Wisk. They brought us the famous "Ring around the collar" ads of the 70's and 80's.