Clorox finds confidence in strong comms

The company has found success by measuring specific brands' ROI and consumer involvement

With an unrelenting economic recession on our hands, organizations, even large international ones like The Clorox Company, are watching every dollar. Measurement has taken on renewed importance as marketing spending scrutiny has heightened.

Even before our current financial crisis, Clorox decided that PR measurement was an important component of its communications efforts. Using an in-house marketing mix model and a strong analytics team, the company sought to pinpoint the impact of PR.

“We rededicated our efforts to trying to isolate PR out of the marketing mix,” says David Kellis, a senior group PR manager with the company. “We had a marketing mix model in place, but the thought was that we couldn't measure PR in the short term because it doesn't have the frequency of impressions. We were always confident about PR, but we wanted to quantify it and tie it to sales.”

With about 25 brands to market in a year, the company couldn't measure the efforts of each. Instead, they've chosen specific brands to measure. In 2006, it was Clorox Disinfectant Wipes; in 2007, Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressings; and in 2008, it was Brita and its Filter For Good environmental sustainability program.

The focus on impressions means the company analyzes how many times a person comes in contact with brand messaging through editorial placements and other efforts. The more impressions per dollar spent, the lower the cost per thousand (CPM) and better the ROI.

“Looking at impressions per market over the course of the year, we were able to correlate sales per market and the assumption held up – the better CPM was leading to really strong ROI,” says Kellis, noting spending lots of money isn't necessary. “The great news that we've found [is]... there isn't a correlation between budget and ROI.”

The Clorox Company bases its PR efforts on trends and relevance for consumers. In 2007, the environment was a huge concern, in part because of Al Gore's documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Additionally, The Clorox Company, headquartered in the Bay Area, followed in the footsteps of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who took on the issue of bottled water consumption, banning city-funded purchases of bottled water. With Brita, the communications team found they could contribute to the green movement in a way that would make it easy for people to participate.

“So many times when you try to get people to go green, it's an expensive first step,” says Drew McGowan, the senior PR manager who created the Filter For Good program with brand AOR Edelman. The “education and awareness” program encourages people to use Brita water filters and drink tap water instead of bottled water.

“If it's hard, people may want to do it, but over time, it won't become a habit,” he says. “We've come up with a solution that's easy to do, it's not going to change your lifestyle, and it's less expensive.”

The initiative included a Web site and a partnership with Nalgene, who provided refillable bottles that carry the message, “I pledge to give up bottle water waste.” Brita also partnered with Josh Dorfman, author of The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living.

While the company cannot disclose the measurement results of the program, Kellis and McGowan call Filter For Good a success, with an ROI that was double the spend. The program was also covered in outlets nationwide, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today.

Besides the return on investment, McGowan says the brand also enjoyed an equally significant form of ROI.

“Not only was the [return on investment] very high, return on involvement with consumers was extremely high,” he says, with people engaging with the brand on blogs and other social media.

This year, the company will be measuring a program for its Kingsford brand of charcoal products, which will encourage backyard tailgating parties and everyday grilling. Due to the company's measurement efforts, the communications team will continue with its PR programs unflinchingly.

“Because PR has demonstrated this ROI,” Kellis says, “it gives us the confidence to increase our PR budgets going forward.”

At A Glance

Organization: The Clorox Company

President/CEO: Donald Knauss

Headquarters: Oakland, CA

Key Trade Titles: The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, and other national and local print, broadcast, and online consumer outlets

Comms Budget: About $1 million for Brita account

Communications Team: Drew McGowan, senior PR manager; Scott Iason, Pamela Dayton, Dan Gagen, and Hank Mercier, marketing managers

AOR: Edelman (for Brita)

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