Mr. Clean Does Cars

ISP/VM+SD Design Competition Winner
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Posted October 25, 2007
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Mr. Clean has been branching out big time – the Procter & Gamble brand’s sales have tripled in the last five years to more than $400 million with the launch of such product extensions as the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and Mr. Clean AutoDry home car-wash product. Now, the Cincinnati-based consumer products giant has turned the brand and its bald-headed icon into a retail experience at the Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash.

That premium car-wash prototype, designed in collaboration with Design Forum (Dayton, Ohio), opened earlier this year in Deerfield Township, a fast-growing area on Cincinnati’s north side. The idea for the new business sprang from P&G’s FutureWorks division, which identified the car-wash industry as a strong prospect for growth.

“We are treating this project like a learning lab to help determine whether P&G will build out the concept as a national chain,” said Glenn Williams, a P&G spokesman. “Our research shows that consumers are quick and happy to associate the Mr. Clean brand with a high-quality car wash.”

In addition to the research that P&G conducted, Design Forum gathered consumer feedback on the car-washing business. Based on that information, designers concluded the Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash should “be loaded with amenities and be especially focused on the female customer, who we discovered often feels uncomfortable in traditional car washes,” says Scott Jeffrey, Design Forum’s chief creative officer. 

So the experience is designed to be clean, bright, friendly and safe. The building’s exterior is simple and contemporary to convey a sense of quality and speed – without appearing overly expensive.

As customers drive up to the facility, signage directs them to the self-serve or full-service queuing. Three lanes help manage traffic and minimize the perception of a long line.

Overhead, Mr. Clean-branded menu boards describe the wash options, which range from a basic wash to full interior detailing. After the customer chooses the level of service, an attendant prints a receipt from a handheld unit, notes the selection and has the customer’s car enter a state-of-the-art wash tunnel.

While their cars are being spiffed up, customers have several choices for how they spend the wait. Exterior seating is available, including brand-blue benches and picnic tables. Inside, customers can while away the time at a 2100-square-foot convenience store and an adjoining lounge.

Large windows allow customers to observe their vehicles moving through the adjacent 140-foot wash tunnel. Mimicking the exterior canopies, three blue archways segment the interior space and help move people through the different areas. Rippling ceiling details and a blue splash mark inset into the floor punctuate two stations – the “Sud Soaker” and “Radical Rinse” – where kids can control remote spray nozzles that shoot colored suds and high-pressure rinse water at the cars as they roll by.

The c-store, which houses a gift shop and coffee bar serving P&G’s Millstone Coffee, has a curved “welcome wall” at its entrance. Above a signature water supergraphic, dots that mirror the shape and angle of the Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash logo communicate the brand attributes with phrases such as “Helping you shine is our business” and “Cars everywhere rejoice.”

At the center of the store is a blue and white cashwrap that divides the merchandise and the lounge area. Here, a blue tile mosaic used at the entry is also found on two sides of the cash counter. Low-level refrigeration units and shelves offer up drinks and snacks.

The adjacent lounge houses flat-screen TVs and offers wireless Internet access. A water feature with a tile backdrop serves as the space’s centerpiece. This area also has a curved wall that mirrors the one at the entry, featuring a supergraphic of a shining car with Mr. Clean reflected in its hood.

From this vantage point, customers can see their cars emerge from the wash tunnel. At this stage of the process, an employee takes the vehicle to one of 18 stations in a finishing canopy, where vacuuming and other detail work takes place. This blue canopy was designed to communicate performance and highlight the moment when the car is “magically clean.”

“We wanted the canopy arches to be contemporary and simple,” says Jeffrey. “They are impactful from a distance and they differentiate. They really become an architectural icon for the brand.”

Client: Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati

Design and architects: Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio

Scott Jeffrey, chief creative officer

General contractor: GLR, Dayton, Ohio

Ceiling: Armstrong World Industries Inc., Lancaster, Pa.

Fixtures: RTC, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Flooring: Atmosphere Rubber Flooring from To Market, Oklahoma City, Okla.; Lonseal, Carson, Calif.

Furniture: Turnstone by Steelcase, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Brayton Intl. by Steelcase, Grand Rapids, Mich.; INDX Designs, Greensboro, N.C.; Cabot Wren, Hickory, N.C.

Graphics: LSI Graphic Solutions Plus, North Canton, Ohio

Paint finishes: ICI Paints, Cleveland

Plastic laminates: Pionite Decorative Surfaces/Panolam, Auburn, Maine; Abet Laminati, Englewood, N.J.; Wilsonart Intl., Temple, Texas

Photography: Bob Winner, Winner Photography, Dayton, Ohio