Green Works, Clorox’s line of environmentally friendly housecleaning products, is using Earth Day to introduce a fund-raising promotion on Twitter as part of an overall revamp of its marketing strategy.
The brand — introduced in 2008 with a controversial endorsement by the Sierra Club — has carried prices at least 20 percent higher than traditional housecleaning products and has been promoted with retailers’ natural and organic products.
In January, however, Green Works recommended that retailers eliminate its price premium and promote its products with traditional housecleaning products. The new policies will be phased in starting this summer.
Clorox’s contract with the Sierra Club, which involved a $1.3 million payment to the environmental organization, will expire this December; the Sierra Club logo, which has appeared on all Green Works packaging, will be eliminated from new, bolder packaging that will begin appearing this summer as part of the overhauled marketing strategy.
The new strategy — which Green Works’ brand manager, Shekinah Eliassen, said was meant to promote its products as being “affordable, effective, accessible and approachable” — no doubt stems from a precipitous decline in sales.
An August 2012 report on environmentally friendly cleaning products in the United States by Packaged Facts, a market research company, said that although Green Works’ dollar sales jumped more than 50 percent in 2009 to $53 million, they had fallen to $32 million for the year ending May 13, 2012, based on data from the IRI Group.
Similarly, Packaged Facts estimated that although Green Works generated about 20 percent of all dollar sales in the green household cleaner category in 2009, that figure had fallen to 13 percent in May last year, according to IRI Group data.
“When Green Works was first launched, it came out of the gate with a lot of investment by Clorox,” said Jason Gere, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “Initially it started to do well, but then the macroeconomic environment took over. Clorox realized that in this consumer-led recession, having products even as environmentally friendly as Green Works’ are, but charging a 20 percent-plus premium to conventional cleaners, was not working.”
The line’s association with Clorox also may have been detrimental, said Ali Dibadj, a senior analyst at Sanford Bernstein. He said the connection meant Green Works “did not appeal to the classic green consumer. So they’re deciding to go after conventional consumers at a lower price point.”
Mr. Gere, who estimated that Green Works likely generates about 5 percent of Clorox’s total sales, said the company had “done themselves a favor by adjusting the price gaps, and with Green Works sold in the cleaning section with traditional products, consumers probably will be willing to try it to see if they like it.”
According to Kantar Media, Clorox spent more than $25 million a year on advertising by DDB, part of the Omnicom Group, for Green Works in 2008 and 2009, the vast majority on television and magazine advertising. Kantar Media said that figure dropped to almost $600,000 — spent mostly on Internet advertising — in 2011, a figure that doubled to $1.2 million last year.
Rebecca Boston, Green Works’ public relations and digital strategist, said the brand decided last year to aim its marketing at “digitally savvy” mothers, ages 18 to 49, “who spend a lot of time online. That’s where we needed to reach them.”
To that end, Green Works hired Calgary, Alberta-based Critical Mass, a digital agency controlled by the Omnicom Group, to develop an advertising strategy driven primarily by social media; officials said Clorox would spend $10 million on the campaign through mid-2014.
Green Works is celebrating Earth Day on Monday with a program that will let Twitter users post a joke to Green Works’ Twitter account. For every Twitter post through the end of May, Green Works will donate a dollar, up to $20,000, to the Environmental Media Association’s school gardens project. The tagline of the initiative is, “You don’t have to be serious to be green.”
In January, Green Works introduced a YouTube series called “Green Housewives,” which parodies people who have made being environmentally correct a status symbol. In February, Green Works ran a “Tweethearts” campaign that allowed participants to send environmentally friendly, virtual Valentine’s Day cards via Twitter. The March social media initiative was a six-second game of charades on Vine, a video clip app, for St. Patrick’s Day; its message was, “You don’t have to put on a charade to be green.”
Chris Gokiert, president of Critical Mass, said the social media initiatives — which are being promoted with digital banner advertising — are intended to “help customers become owners of and advocates for the brand.”
The campaign also involves a new Green Works Web site, introduced in January, and magazine advertising in April, May and June issues of women’s magazines and People. One ad says, “You don’t have to be perfect to be green,” while another says, “You don’t have to be a trust fund baby to be green.”
Kevin Tuerff, president of EnviroMedia, an Austin-based environmental marketing company, said the new social media strategy could “enhance brand awareness, though it may not translate into sales.”
Wendy Nicholson, who follows Clorox for Citi, said organic personal care products generally have been more successful than organic household products. “People tend to care more about all-natural, organic products going into the body, as opposed to being used on their dishes or clothes,” she said.
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