We leave our pousada just after breakfast. We walk to the corner of the street where we hail a taxi. “To Parque da Luz next to the Pinacoteca,” I say in my best Portuguese. The taxi makes a left turn, then a right and then a left again, zigzagging through the streets of Jardims Paulista. “I love this part of town,” Maarten says while looking out of the window. “It doesn’t feel like we’re in a metropole of 20 million inhabitants.”
After 20 minutes we arrive at the Pinacoteca, the oldest and one of the most important art museums of Brazil, since 1905 housed in this characteristic building. Here we have a meeting with Aline Santos, Global Senior Vice President for OMO.
We find her on the terrace of the Pinacoteca café which looks out over the park. “Instead of in my office, I wanted to find the right setting to share my story,” Aline says, pointing at the tall trees in the park. We look at the trees and back at Aline. “Is OMO into tree-washing these days?” I ask. “Not the trees,” she replies, “but the children playing behind the trees.
“A few years ago, we were sending out more or less the same message as everyone else, using the same language and the same images. This is a great danger in this market: the threat of commoditisation. Besides, we didn’t want to just be talking about ketchup stains anymore; we needed a message that mothers would remember even after the laundry was folded away in the cupboard. Brands without a purpose have no future in today’s competitive market.
“So, we came up with the Dirt is Good concept, which was a revolution in detergent land, where dirt used to be the enemy. We started encouraging parents to let their children play outside more. Let your kids discover the world, let them get dirty and OMO will take care of the dirt.”
Aline points again at the children. “I remember my own childhood, I played outside with my brothers all the time, climbing trees, building tree houses, running around, feeling free and getting the opportunity to explore the world around me. This is not only important for kids, but also for the adults they will become.”
The São Paulo sun is shining in the park, we leave the café, start walking towards the children and stop in the shade of the trees. I watch the running children, then turn to Aline: “So Dirt is Good has become a philosophy?” She pauses for a few seconds. “You can say that it has outgrown OMO as a product and has become a wake-up call for mothers.
“Using OMO as a vehicle, we started spreading the message about the importance of playing and exploring. The physical and emotional development that go with it. Children have the right to play, to be children. Of course, in the end we are a detergent producer and I have to make sure we sell enough products, but we make sure that we have a purpose in society.”
We walk back towards the Pinacoteca and I turn to Aline. “It is a most interesting challenge you have, creating a higher purpose for a detergent,” I say. “It probably isn’t a walk in the park at all.”
Read more: Aline Santos Farhat -“Dirt is Good”
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