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Clorox CMO's Five Building Blocks of a Better Brand

Spotlight: Eric Reynolds, Clorox Company

By Published on .

An ad for Clorox Co.'s Brita brand starring NBA star Stephen Curry.
An ad for Clorox Co.'s Brita brand starring NBA star Stephen Curry. Credit: BRITA USA

When Eric Reynolds talks about brand building, you pay attention. As the CMO of Clorox Company -- and a CMO Club Marketing Innovation Award-winner -- Reynolds is leading the charge for household names like Brita and Burt's Bees, directing his teams to give their brands new life "in a nimble, studio-focused, team way."

With Brita, for example, Reynolds drove a strategic reimagining of the brand amid apparent stagnation in the water filtration category. By leaning on new data -- and perhaps even more heavily on human storytelling -- his team eventually tied Brita to the act of filtering out negativity in The Filtered Life, a campaign that is currently tackling online bullying in partnership with NBA star Steph Curry. With Burt's Bees, Reynolds and his team are using the same elements of data and a strong story to drive sales, including automated, weather-based media-buying for the brand's lip balm.

But it's more than metrics and storytelling that power a good brand. Here, in his own words, are the five elements that Reynolds found essential in bettering Clorox's brands: focus, data, mystery, patience and curiosity.

Eric Reynolds.
Eric Reynolds.  Credit: Clorox

1. Focus: Know thy brand

"Nothing ever gets better until you're really clear with yourself about what your brand stands for, why it even exists. At some point, someone has to say, 'Stop. We're doing all of this stuff -- why? Why does it matter?' It's a leadership question. It's someone declaring a better future and willing to go back and question some of the fundamentals of the brand.

What I like about the Brita story is the commitment that the idea, the brand, the product experience, would lead us out of the woods. Leaning into the fundamentals was a way to win so that we'd have a brand for the next 50 years, and not just rely on price promotion and other offers. I love the commitment to brand building as a craft and a business imperative together."

2. Data: Let science lead you

"'State-of-the-art' means a strong commitment to brand fundamentals, and then harnessing all the amazing data and technology as a means to an end. One of the things that excites me is that we've used our data science to identify new segments within water filtration that would not have been apparent to us, that defy classic segmentation. Machine learning clusters consumers in ways we never would've, and I think that is very much part of the future.

The thing that keeps me up at night is that I believe small brands can do this, and that's my biggest fear. With a bit of technology and some good partnerships, you can approach what I just talked about and do it at a speed that we're still trying to approach. You just need smart people working on tough problems."

3. Mystery: Don't lose sight of art

"Never lose the mystery in brand building. Clorox has had an exceptional history in terms of brand building. We have an incredible fusion of data and analytics that would be the envy of most companies. These are human questions we're trying to answer on a human scale, and when [your brand] doesn't respect that, the culture can reject it. Bringing back this balance between mystery and science is tough to get back if you lose it."

4. Patience: Take the time to test, test, test

"We got to the big idea of Brita faster than we thought. What took us longer was that we said, 'Let's make sure we don't just celebrate. Let's follow that idea down into the product moments, into the communication. Does the whole thing hang together?'

I would tell all marketers that once you find the big idea, keep going, but really pressure test it and make sure it can speak to your category authentically all the way down to your product experience. You'll know you're on to a good one when it speaks comfortably on all those levels."

5. Curiosity: For more, search beyond your borders

"A radical commitment to external focus is probably your greatest resource [in building a brand]. Modern organizations of any size -- if they're not careful -- militate against an outside view. It's not just reading the Wall Street Journal or AdAge; it's talking to theologians, particle physicists ... trying to keep up with the conversations.

Ideas happen in networks, and I would encourage every modern marketer to open up their vision of where they're going to draw inspiration, guidance, or even technical assistance from. The lanes are getting wide, and that's where the magic and mystery is happening. If you don't have a good dose of humility these days, I think you're making a great mistake in terms of the health and future and momentum of your brands."

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