5 questions with Clorox CMO Stacey Grier
Clorox seems an unlikely candidate to be one of America’s Hottest Brands, but few are hotter now. Nearly five months into the pandemic, Clorox Wipes still can’t be found on Amazon or in most stores.
That leaves Clorox Co. Chief Marketing Officer Stacey Grier in the strange position of marketing at a time when there’s no need to pitch products and doing so might seem, at best, uncouth. Yet her boss, Chairman-CEO Benno Dorer, has pledged to maintain marketing spending as a share of sales, even as company-wide retail sales soared 22 percent last quarter in the U.S., according to IRI data from Evercore ISI. Clorox also makes such brands as Kingsford charcoal, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, Brita water filters and Pine-Sol cleaners—all of which one way or another have gotten a push from the pandemic.
Spending all that money just became harder as Clorox last month pledged to stop spending on Facebook in response to the Stop Hate for Profit boycott. “We feel compelled to take action against hate speech, which we believe will increase through the end of the calendar year,” Grier said in a statement.
It hasn’t hurt sales noticeably. After a hiccup, where Clorox company-wide sales ended a series of double-digit gains with a 7.3 percent decline the week ended July 5, sales soared 37.8 percent the following week, according to IRI.
In an interview with Ad Age, Grier talks about how the pandemic has otherwise reshaped Clorox marketing.
How do you market when it’s impossible to keep your products on the shelves?
We have thought about the work we’re doing right now as relationship-building. We think it’s important to continue to spend, because that’s what the basis of the relationship is. We’re not as interested in selling products, obviously, right now. What we’re really interested in is how can we help people do what they need to do, return to a sense of normalcy, uplift them in some way, and how do we just be a valuable partner?
So you’re talking more about the role of cleaning and Clorox in people’s lives than hawking products?
Some of the work shows other products so, as people are unable to get wipes, it shows them other ways to clean and disinfect. We did some sponsorship work with Nextdoor [a hub for neighbors to help each other with shopping or supplies they can’t find]. So you’d see a lot of what I would think of as ‘We are here to help you through a really important and tough time to clean your house, but hopefully beyond that.’
How does this affect the brand?
Well if you looked at the recent Harris Poll, you’d say the relationship-building is helping people understand that we have integrity [Clorox was seen as the second most essential brand in the poll, and the one with the most integrity], that we’re making them a priority, and we have a sense of urgency as we’re going after the challenge in the world right now. All our internal tracking would say the same thing. We think of our purpose as guiding us at this point, that we want a cleaner world where people thrive.
Early on people were profiteering on Amazon and elsewhere, selling Clorox Wipes at crazy prices. What did you do about that?
Obviously, that doesn’t help anyone. We made it a top priority to chase that down, and did it with our retail partners. They had an incentive as well to do the right thing in this moment.
How long before the supply and demand balance out?
We’re making 40 percent more than we did last year at this time. They’re hitting store shelves but going as fast as we can get them into stores. I don’t know when supply will meet demand because I don’t know when the demand is going to lessen. We’ve seen it up to 500 percent higher. No business is prepared for a 500 percent increase in demand.
We increased our supply of hospital-grade bleach by 400 percent. Crisis is the mother of invention sometimes. We were able to invent a 55-gallon drum of bleach, which we were able to donate to large healthcare facilities.
Most importantly what we did was reduce the number of products we were making so we could run the lines more continuously and get more products out. There were far fewer kinds of wipes but more of them.
Hear more insights from Grier and other marketers at Inside America’s Hottest Brands, an Ad Age virtual event, on July 28. Register here.