BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- When Clorox put its name on a line of green cleaners in late 2007, some bloggers and competitors scoffed at the idea of a chlorine bleach brand trying to go green.
Fewer are laughing now. Clorox Green Works became, at least by Clorox Co.'s accounting, the largest green brand in household cleaners in less than a year. Last year, it successfully took Clorox into a new category -- dish soap.
Helping lead that charge has been Jessica Buttimer, 39, first as marketing director, most recently in general management as global domain leader.
A Marin County mom, she'd been hearing for years from neighbors that Clorox should make environmentally friendlier cleaners. She leapt at the chance to put those ideas into practice.
Now, a lot of competitors are wondering what Ms. Buttimer will do next. One hint could come from the fact that Clorox has been testing a move of Green Works into laundry detergents. A survey of 1,000 people by Consumer Edge Research suggests the brand could take a high-single-digit bite out of the multibillion-dollar U.S. laundry-detergent market, mainly out of Procter & Gamble Co.'s flagship Tide.
Ms. Buttimer and Clorox aren't commenting on their detergent plans, but they see a lot of potential for the brand.
"When we first launched, I think there was some debate of is it greenwashing?" she said. "I think we invested quite a bit upfront in educating people that this was the real deal -- everything from disclosing ingredients on our label to working with the Sierra Club. I think it was pretty obvious to the consumer and [nongovernmental organizations] that we were doing something good."
Whether greener cleaners will change the world is one question, but Benno Dorer, VP of Clorox's cleaning division, said Ms. Buttimer's team is certainly changing Clorox.
'A small, social brand'
"We're exploring new ground not just for Clorox but for CPG," he said, referring to a small, semiautonomous team that Ms. Buttimer leads. "She's helping lead the way for the whole company to take more risks and be more environmentally sustainable."
Mr. Dorer said he measures leadership ability largely by how well people want to work under a leader. "And people want to work on Green Works very much," he said.
"Regardless of [my] role or how big the brand gets, it feels different to work on [Green Works]," Ms. Buttimer said. "We consider ourselves a small, social brand, and Clorox doesn't have a lot of those. We run on relatively lean resources. We don't have all the data that the established brands have, and we like to try new and different ways to connect with the consumer."