Clorox — best known for its conventional bleach — launched the Green Works brand of eco-friendly products, including a laundry detergent made primarily from natural, plant-based ingredients. Green Works products are formulated to be: biodegradable, made from renewable resources, non-allergenic, not tested on animals, and packaged in bottles that can be recycled.
From nature comes Green Works: A new line of laundry products made with natural, plant-based ingredients from Clorox.
Clothes washed in Green Works detergent are gentle on skin and have no harsh chemical residue.
And since they’re from Clorox, you can trust them to remove tough stains.
Green Works. Naturally.
Green Works Background
Green Works™ products are made from plant-based ingredients derived from natural sources like coconuts and corn. The products clean without harsh chemicals and are formulated to be: biodegradable, made from renewable resources, non-allergenic, not tested on animals, and packaged in bottles that can be recycled.
The Green Works line was initially introduced in 2008 at Wal-Mart, consisting of five natural cleaning products:
- Green Works Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
- Green Works Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner
- Green Works Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Green Works Natural Dilutable Cleaner
- Green Works Natural Bathroom Cleaner
As the first major consumer products firm to launch an eco-friendly line, Clorox sought to move green cleaning products beyond the niche of Whole Foods-type stores into Wal-Marts and suburban supermarkets.
Clorox’s Previous Reputation
In 2004, Clorox had been named one of a “dangerous dozen” chemical companies by the Public Interest Research Group. They contended that Clorox’s handling of chemicals at U.S. production facilities left 14 million people vulnerable to contamination in the case of an accidental release.
According to (CBS) reporting at the time: “The big question that hung in the balance: whether to openly use the Clorox name on the new brand, or hide it altogether. On a green product, the Clorox badge could have been a liability: Died-in-the-wool environmentalists, long mistrustful of Clorox’s flagship bleach, had little interest in the company’s products, and Clorox’s core customers wanted sanitation on a budget, not green gimmicks. In the end, says Emmy Berlind, a Green Works brand manager, Clorox chose to stick with its own name and logo because they convey the dependability people associate with the company’s conventional bleach products. Clorox was betting that its brand’s dependability would attract the kind of customer who didn’t ordinarily buy eco-friendly products.”
Sierra Club Endorsement
For credibility with environmentalists, Clorox paid Sierra Club $1.3 million to allows its ‘seal of approval’ to appear on every Green Works bottle from 2008 to 2013. The goal was to use the The Sierra Club logo and reputation to help alleviate the concerns of anyone who felt the words ‘Clorox’ and ‘green’ were a disconnect. However, the Sierra Club was criticized by vocal members and chapters who were unhappy with the endorsement-for-a-fee.
By watching this Clorox training video, produced for the corporate cleaning market, you can practically hear the ad agency’s creative brief leap off the page. The creative team must have wrestled with multiple message points. Imagine the delicate balancing act of promoting the advantages of Green Works without criticizing Clorox’s core, conventional cleaners.
The video presents multiple rationale’s for using Green Works products: “Whether the goal is to protect the planet, to create healthier environments for employees and customers, or to secure LEED certification for their business, many customers are switching to green cleaning products… Green Works products are held to a higher standard of natural and they deliver powerful performance from brands you can trust.”
That’s six different message frames:
- environmental protection
- health & safety
- LEED certification
- (higher standard of) natural
- powerful cleaning performance
Initial Financial Performance
At the time of launch, Green Works products cost about 20 to 25 percent more than traditional brands; comparable green products from Seventh Generation and Method cost twice as much as conventional cleaners.
But it’s tough to sell a premium-priced product during a recession, especially when launch ad support phases out. Green Works revenue fell from a high of $53 million in 2009 to $32 million in 2012. According to Kantar Media, Clorox spent more than $25 million per year on advertising in 2008 and 2009 (primarily for TV and magazine advertising). By 2012, ad spending (mostly on internet advertising) was down to $1.2 million (which was actually double the $600,000 spent in 2011.)
In mid-2013, Clorox changed strategy by recommending that retailers eliminate the Green Works price premium. Brand manager Shekinah Eliassen sought to reposition Green Works as “affordable, effective, accessible and approachable.”
That accessible and approachable strategy is reflected in the “Green Housewives” Green Works video which parodies environmental correctness. The video concludes: “It’s time for green without the attitude. Clorox Green Works for all.”
Green Works Canada combined the concepts of accessibility and effectiveness with its #GloriousMessess campaign, which asks parents to “Share Your Life’s #GloriousMesses” (which are cleaned by Green Works).