“There are over 50 brands out there just for cleaning — this one is for glass, but only certain types of glass, this one is for only one kind of flooring,” Reed tells Hypepotamus. And in fact, U.S. consumers spend nearly $10 billion on spray cleaners each year, but report close to zero brand identification or preference.
“Cleaning had been left out of the disruption cycle,” Reed says.
The two met in their previous roles at Lexington, KY-based Big Ass Fans (guess what they sold). Both had risen to leadership roles at the company over a decade, which saw a growth period of more than 6x in annual sales and a $500 million exit in 2017.
A big portion of Big Ass Fan’s success, says Reed, was creative and customer-centric marketing. Reed, who started as an intern in 2010, drove that effort as the eventual global director of marketing.
“When we started, there just wasn’t a lot of, well, fanfare around fans. But we decided to have a lot of fun and I think that culture showed through in our communications with our customers,” he says. “We wanted to encourage people to expect more from their ceiling fans.”
Both Reed and Bostock, who was BAF’s COO, saw value in entering a nascent market as a disruptor with a customer-first eye. Following the acquisition, they looked for another industry filled with underperforming incumbents.
Enter, the home cleaning market.
“It’s a sleepy category — we’ve had the same brands for decades, lots of sameness when you walk down the aisle, not a lot of innovation,” says Reed.
What’s more, the industry’s lethargy has led to real harm: the vast majority of cleaning products purchased are in single-use plastic bottles. Plus, most of what’s inside the bottle is not even cleaning fluid: 98 percent of the average cleaning product is water.
Lastly, the duo observed a new type of consumer: a digital-first, e-commerce friendly consumer that cared about the impact their purchases make on the world.
Out of these observations, Truman’s was born. The direct-to-consumer, renewable cleaning product subscription service works within the framework that other successful D2C companies have created — products like Dollar Shave Club and SmileDirectClub.
Truman’s offers four flavors of cleaning products: Everything and the Kitchen Sink, Floors Truly, More Shower to You and The Glass Is Always Cleaner. You can guess which portion of the home each is made for.
Instead of the fully-mixed cleaning product which, remember, is 98 percent water, Truman’s sends customers the concentrate — the 2 percent of the product that is actually cleaning ingredient. The consumer mixes it with water themselves in a plastic bottle sent by Truman’s upon first order.
The standard Truman’s subscription sends refill kits with four cartridges of each cleaner concentrate every six months. Customers can pause their subscription or add more if they’re a real neat freak.
“We fundamentally believe direct-to-consumer is the best way to operate a business — to really get to know your customer and to service them well,” says Reed.
Because of the significantly smaller container required to ship the concentrate, shipping emissions are also lower. And of course, the amount of water used is significantly reduced. Truman’s claims that if just 5 percent of the market shifts to their brand, about 4 billion pounds of water will be saved.
However, he also claims that their target customer is not the “hyper-sensitive environmental consumer.”
“I refer to our customer as the casual recycler,” Reed says. “The guy like me who wants to do a little better but doesn’t want to change his lifestyle.”
The team self-funded their entire initial manufacturing. The product launched to the public three months ago.
Much of their marketing was organic, driven by a social media video campaign that garnered millions of views from 120 countries on LinkedIn.
“We had so much momentum in the first month that we doubled our manufacturing plan and didn’t have to spend anything on marketing, which was just phenomenal,” Reed says.
They’re continue to see the orders pour in, but are already thinking of how next they will expand.
“I think there are opportunities to unify cleaning. In the retail store, your dish cleaner is separate from your laundry care from your service care from pet care,” says Reed. “The same problems exist in all these spaces — extreme brand fragmentation, product proliferation, a lot of confusion and lack of transparency, and then of course there’s the waste of all these liquid-based products.”
Reed says the team is closely studying all of these spaces to decide which they want to clean up next.