In 1985 I formulated the first Preen Trigger:
The brief I was given was that I had to mimic the performance of the legendary Preen aerosol – the great unstainer.
This was not easy, as the aerosol contained trichloroethane – dry cleaning solvent – with astonishingly good stain dissolving properties. I couldn’t use this product in the trigger, because it was too volatile, and also the plastic components wouldn’t have survived.
So I eventually came up with a formula that used a paraffinic solvent that worked better than the aerosol on some things (oils and greases) and not so well on others (inks and dyes).
There wasn’t any real competition – there was a product called Charge (an S.C.Johnson product) that was…wait for it….water based.
How we laughed at Charge! What type of bozos would think that they could get away with making a water-based prewash? In my stain tests, Preen killed it in every area except one – clay (not unexpected as the inorganic nature of clay makes it more susceptible to a water based approach).
But then I left the company, and Preen was in someone else’s hands.
And then some years later, a Brent Smyth in marketing had an idea – if they switched to a water based formula they could make more money. So they went to the guys in the lab, and the conversation probably went like this:
Marketing Guy: can we make Preen water-based?
Lab Guy: Are you kidding? It won’t work nearly as well.
Marketing Guy: that’s okay – we’ll change the packaging, and no one will notice.
So now, Preen looks like this
the selection of the bright pink colour no doubt was the result of focus group marketing, which would associate it with cleaning power.
This change, which happened in 2004, was probably marketed as an improvement to the formula, along with an increase in price. But all they are doing is attempting to conceal from you the fact that this is a cheaper product. If they sold the product more cheaply, it may alert you to this fact, so they go the other way and increase the price, thus keeping you into believing it is a superior product.
Well guess what Brent – people have noticed. Whenever people mention Preen to me, the word they most associate it with is “useless.”
But it gets worse than this. There is now not one Preen trigger product but three – Original, Oxy Action, and Ultra-Degreaser. So they now want you to buy three products instead of one. You are being conned.
You see, there is no reason that the ingredients in all these three products cannot be combined into one formula.
The reason they do this is that this way you have to buy three times as many products. So you are being doubly conned – not only are you paying more for a cheaper product, but you are now forced to buy three of them.
The result of Preen going water-based, is that now every man and his dog is making a laundry prewash – Sard, Orange Power, White King, and several others, including Coles and Woolworths.
For my next appearance on Today Tonight, I’m going to carry out a comprehensive tests of all of these, as well as chucking in a few other products that will surprise you.