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Of Clorox Bleach and Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

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A recent Brandweek article, Concentrating on Bleach, piqued my interest. In the article, we learn that Clorox has launched a new campaign to show consumers the many uses for bleach, besides using it to whiten their laundry. New ad spots show that bleach can be used to disinfect cutting boards, baby bottles and other common household items. And how about adding a drop in a vase full of water to help fresh-cut flowers last longer?


Interestingly, Clorox and four creative consultancies worked together to not only create ads, but to develop multi-platform messaging aimed at educating consumers about the product, as well as suggesting multiple uses for it. Ads are directing consumers to a dedicated website: www.Cloroxbleachuses.com for ideas.
Do you remember when Arm & Hammer took this approach for baking soda a few years ago? The brand marketers breathed new life, excitement and growth in their basic commodity product by taking the approach of demonstrating the myriad uses for baking soda. Clorox seems to be co-opting this idea in its new marketing push. It makes me wonder whether Clorox will enjoy the same success that Arm & Hammer had a few years ago. . .or is bleach too different a commodity than baking soda due to its nature as a cleaning chemical?
I find it even more interesting that Clorox has launched another site to let consumers know that its bleach doesn't contain mercury or hurt the environment, contrary to popular belief. www.factsaboutbleach.com. This has to be the company's response to increasing consumer concerns about the environmental impact of using conventional cleaning and disinfecting agents.
It is important to give consumers straight talk on these issues, and probably long overdue, but I wonder whether these initiatives will work since the product in question is bleach.
Another prong in Clorox's new strategy: public service announcements showing the great things bleach is capable of doing. NBA star Grant Hill discussing a bad bout of staph infection and how bleach kills staph, for example. The fungus-killing capability of bleach and how it saved frogs threatened by a fungus.
Questions:
*
What do you think of Clorox's new ad campaign to expand usage of its product? Do you think it will work? Why? Why not?
*
What will the impact of the "facts about bleach" messaging be? Will it do anything to change public opinion in some quarters about bleach or will it be seen as a ploy by the company to stem the tide against increasingly bad press about chemical cleaners?
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What do you think of the Clorox strategy to show the potentially "life saving" aspects of bleach?
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Will this new positioning and messaging build new sales and confidence in Clorox bleach, or help build the image of all bleach products in general? Will it halt the decline in bleach sales and rebuild the brand?
I'd love to hear from you.


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Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (www.designforceinc.com), a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.

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  • by Paul Barsch Thu Jan 22, 2009 via blog

    Ted, this is an interesting case study in the topic, amount of money spent, and target market. I like the educational aspect of this campaign but have some questions that the Brandweek article doesn't answer. For example, of a presumed $40m marketing budget (similar to 2008) how much is going into print vs other mediums (esp online). Are ads for this campaign in women's magazines exclusively? If so, why? The article seems to imply that women are the primary target audience. Is that correct?

  • by Ted Mininni Thu Jan 22, 2009 via blog

    Great questions, Paul, and I wish I was privy to this kind of information. It would be nice to know how the marketing pie is being sliced among media choices. It would also be nice to know what percentage is being spent on the various messaging being put out there: additional uses for bleach, environmental facts about bleach and PSAs, wouldn't it? If I can find additional information to shed some light on this, I'll post it. To answer your question, yes, the primary audience targeted for Clorox: women. Thanks for weighing in with your questions, Paul. I appreciate it.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Thu Jan 22, 2009 via blog

    * What do you think of Clorox's new ad campaign to expand usage of its product? Do you think it will work? Why? Why not? I do not know much about bleach so I was curious and went to factsaboutbleach.com. They did a good job of addressing possible objections/concerns about bleach and a good job of backing up their claims with sources. * What will the impact of the "facts about bleach" messaging be? Will it do anything to change public opinion in some quarters about bleach or will it be seen as a ploy by the company to stem the tide against increasingly bad press about chemical cleaners? It has a good chance of working because people need disinfectants and if bleach really is safer than alternatives, then people will likely use it. * What do you think of the Clorox strategy to show the potentially "life saving" aspects of bleach? It is true that infections are a public health concern in hospitals and other public places but I hope they do not resort to fear of pathogens in the home in their campaigns. It is true that a good disinfectant is a useful tool at home but do not make people paranoid and overuse bleach. There is a balance there. People should be used carefully and, of course, kept out of reach of children and people who are a bit over zealous in their disinfecting everything in sight. * Will this new positioning and messaging build new sales and confidence in Clorox bleach, or help build the image of all bleach products in general? Will it halt the decline in bleach sales and rebuild the brand? Yes.

  • by Ted Mininni Thu Jan 22, 2009 via blog

    Thanks, Neil, for taking the time to think this through, check out the links and answer the questions I posed on my post. You've made a number of great points, and I really honed in on the one concerning overuse of bleach or any other disinfectant. A number of discussions have centered around the use of antibacterial soap for the same reason. Being too zealous about killing germs can have a negative, rather than the sought-after positive effect, can't it? Thanks for saying so much, so well, Neil. I appreciate it.

  • by Paul Williams Fri Jan 23, 2009 via blog

    Clorox is actually dusting off history and shining it up for our generation. Clorox launched and gained popularity in the 1900s by giving away product samples. Even back then it was pitched as an "effective and reliable domestic laundry aid, stain remover, deodorant and disinfectant." I can think of at least two other household brands - Q-tips Cotton Swabs and Arm & Hammer Baking Soda - that have a history of helping us understand the *other* ways to use their products. Q-tips The package lets you know, Q-tips are good not only for your ears, but also for removing make-up and getting the gunk out of your computer keyboard. According to the Q-tips timeline, in the 50s... "Q-tips get recognized by Hollywood glamour and partner with America's top Hollywood makeup artist, Ern Westmore, to create the "Lesson in Loveliness with Q-tips" booklet. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda You mention them in your post. Baking Soda is interesting. We use it in the US primarily for baking. In the Netherlands you buy it at the druggist to help with stomach upset. Arm & Hammer ran ads in the late 1920s explaining the "kitchen and personal care uses" of baking soda. It's been a pitched as a refrigerator odor absorber, an 'active' ingredient in toothpaste, cleaning items (And don't forget mixed with red food coloring and vinegar makes a great volcano!) The Arm & Hammer has a mini-site highlighting the myriad of uses for their product. Bleach, Cotton Swabs, and Baking Soda have been around for years. Users have found ways to use the products that may be different from the original intention. (Check out the back of a pack of dryer sheets... They're not only good to make your clothes smell good and eliminate static cling, they also freshen your clothes drawers, your gym bag... We marketers are *always* looking for additional 'use occasions' for our products)

  • by Ted Mininni Fri Jan 23, 2009 via blog

    Thank you for all of your observations, Paul. Looks like Clorox may have gone back to the company's marketing past now. Makes sense. Might it not be a good idea if the Clorox people solicited consumers' ideas on their web site, as well? To your point: people generally find inventive ways to use products--it would be interesting to see how the brand's loyal consumers use Clorox. Thanks for weighing in, Paul. Good stuff.

  • by Nora Tue Jan 27, 2009 via blog

    From the marketing point of view, I've watched the Clorox brand renewal with interest. Living in the Pacific Northwest, there's a lot of attention on "green" products and there was a huge outcry when Clorox bought Burt's Bees. The feeling being that a great, natural product was acquired by a company that sells harmful "anti-green" products. Clorox has been very proactive addressing these understandable (and predictable) concerns. It's impressive to see the company's cohesive marketing machine at work, whether you agree/buy-in to the information or not. For a counter to the Clorox marketing, google "spore tech." The site debunks some of the myths of what chlorine bleach can and can't do. Interesting to see the difference careful word choice can make. From the consumer perspective: In our household, Clorox/bleach is something to use sparingly. (Ever accidentally gotten a little bleach spray on blue jeans or a black shirt?) As a member of their target market, I can say we always have some bleach in the house but it's not a primary "turn to" product.

  • by Ted Mininni Tue Jan 27, 2009 via blog

    You're obviously an informed consumer, Nora. You've done your homework here. You're right: Clorox is slowing changing its orientation. The purchase of Burt's Bees is something I blogged about a while ago. I also discussed the launch of the company's Green Works line a few months ago. Let's give credit where credit is due. It's a good thing when a company like Clorox changes and becomes more environmentally friendly over time. I think a majority of households have bleach in them. Like you, most of them probably use it with their whites in the laundry, and otherwise, not for much else. Won't it be interesting to see whether the company's push to encourage consumers to use bleach for more purposes works? Remember: it did for Arm & Hammer baking soda. Thanks for making so many terrific observations, Nora. I appreciate it.

  • by margaret thomas Tue Jan 27, 2009 via blog

    I Have ruined too many articles of clothing by being accidently splashed with a solution of clorox made for the purpose of cleanig.I do not use it for anything except to wash whites in the laundry.Even then I MUST BE SUPER CAREFUL when handling clorox.

  • by margaret thomas Tue Jan 27, 2009 via blog

    I Have ruined too many articles of clothing by being accidently splashed with a solution of clorox made for the purpose of cleanig.I do not use it for anything except to wash whites in the laundry.Even then I MUST BE SUPER CAREFUL when handling clorox.

  • by Ted Mininni Tue Jan 27, 2009 via blog

    I wonder how many legions of bleach users have experienced that problem, Margaret. More than a few, I suspect. Thanks for weighing in here: I can see that Clorox will not be enticing Margaret Thomas to use Clorox for more than her laundry!

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Wed Jan 28, 2009 via blog

    I often wear clothes I do not care about when I clean. I normally use green cleaner solutions clean but I can see an application for a bleach solution the bathroom, for example. You'd definitely have to be careful not only not to splash it but also not to mix it with other cleaners. If I recall, it is very, very bad to mix bleach with Ammonia as it creates dangerous fumes. I do recognize the ability of bleach to do a good job of cleaning, though, when used well and when wearing old clothes. :-)

  • by Ted Mininni Wed Jan 28, 2009 via blog

    Good admonition/reminder to everybody, Neil. And thanks for weighing in with your comments. It is not safe to mix cleaning solutions due to dangerous fumes, is right.

  • by Barbara Phillips Long Wed Jan 28, 2009 via blog

    Clorox would benefit from finding a way to make tablets that can be added to water to create the solution of bleach to water recommended for disinfecting (1 part bleach to 9 parts water). The splashing problem is a real problem, and I also tend to avoid purchasing and using bleach for that reason.

  • by Liz Sat Mar 21, 2009 via blog

    Frankly, I am very unhappy with the ad that shows baby bottles and children's toys being cleaned with bleach.I cannot believe there is no mention about the caution that must be used and that rinsing over and over would be required.I want those stopped. There are too many people who think every germ has to be destroyed to keep your family healthy. I never use Clorox, although grew up thinking it was required when doing laundry.I think this generation is too savvy to be fooled into thinking you have to disinfect everything. Soap and water is adequate for most cleaning. Vinegar,baking soda,borax and water are preferred and they are not poisonous.People, read about antibacterial soap and the pesticides which are in it. You will throw it out.

  • by Ted Mininni Mon Mar 23, 2009 via blog

    You've raised some important points, Liz, and I thank you for making them. You're right: we as consumers have invested in numerous harsh chemical and antibacterial cleaning products in hope of eradicating germs. Not only has that created more respiratory problems and allergies, but potential poisoning as well. The kicker is, as you pointed out, that germs are becoming resistant to "antibacterial" soap, too, probably causing more harm than good. We need to become more educated about the products we choose to buy and bring into our homes. Then we can make informed choices. If less harsh detergents can be used to kill the worst germs, then maybe that should suffice. . .? Thanks, Liz, for articulating this argument so well.

  • by Mary Mon Oct 19, 2009 via blog

    I think bleach should be used only when necessary for limited causes, since it can create reactions with other chemicals people use. Once I had horrible episode when I kept an open box of baking soda in my car to keep air fresh, and on a hot day in Florida I went to Home Depot. I bought a plank of wood, and, probably, because he wood was bleaches, when I returned to my hot car with baking soda in it, and placed the plank inside, before I started to drive, I smelled something horrible, my eyes started tearing and I started suffocating. I quickly jumped out of the car and let it air out. A couple in another car were asking what is wrong, I explained to them the best I could. They advised me to place a plank in a trunk. I think the baking soda and bleach in a wood interacted in a hot, humid environment. What if I did not react fast and suffocate or cause an accident on a road? The bleach is a dangerous chemical.

  • by Mary Mon Oct 19, 2009 via blog

    I think clorox requires very careful use. Some known cases of women that suffocated in a bathroom( for no apparent resaon) ending up in a tub of water could be a result of them keeping in the bathroom or using a combinations of chemicals that become harmful while interacting with each other under certain temperatures and humidity. Say, ammonia based products and clorox, baking soda, lysol, if you add to this human urine ( since it is bathroom after all), add hot water, steam, small room, usually closed which means not ventilated, and we have a catastrophe on hand, when a woman, especially the perfectionist, clean freak would simply die in a bathroom of exposure to a combination of cleaning chemicals. The saddest part of it is that in those cases family member, like husband can get accused and go to gail, while his wife was, for example, sensitive to chemicals due to her health condition.

  • by Ted Mininni Mon Oct 19, 2009 via blog

    Hi Mary, Thanks for taking the time to share these instances about bleach. As is the case with all chemicals, consumers should take care when using them. Well-ventilated areas are a "must". Also: no chemical should be used in combination with others. That's a big no-no. I think your examples point to a need. Cleaning product companies can and should do a better job of educating the public about these matters. However, consumers have a responsibility here, as well. Companies do put warnings on their labels, but many consumers fail to read them. Results can range from mild allergic type reactions to asthma to severe injuries, including death. We all need to read instructions and use caution when using any and all chemicals. Period. Thanks, Mary. You've probably helped some people today.

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