In the early 90’s Brand Extension Research conducted a brand extension research study for Clorox. At that time, Clorox Laundry Detergent had recently been launched and failed. Management told us they were unsure why. We asked them how they defined the business of the Clorox brand. They told us they viewed their business as laundry and household cleaning products, hence the launch of detergent. In our work, we concluded this was not the way consumers saw it. Managers had various preconceived concepts they wanted us to examine. Some ideas management suggested were Clorox automatic dishwasher detergent, carpet cleaner, oven cleaner and liquid dishwashing detergent. None of these were acceptable to consumers.
Not surprisingly, the Clorox brand was synonymous with bleach. The brand’s boundaries and leverage evolved from this perception. People have a love/hate relationship with bleach. It cleans, brightens, deodorizes, disinfects, kills germs, kills mold or mildew, and removes stains. But bleach is difficult to handle, caustic, toxic and can damage some surfaces. It is powerful, effective, and for tough jobs. We provided the client with a definition of the business derived from these consumer perceptions:
“Chemical products that are bleach, contain bleach or provide the benefits of bleach for the tough jobs of cleaning, disinfecting (and sometimes killing mold, brightening or removing stains) on surfaces which consumers perceive would not be harmed by bleach.”
The concepts management were considering were all rejected by consumers. Here is what consumers said about them:
Instead, we pointed out that the probability of brand dilution was negligible if the company launched brand extensions that contained bleach or offered bleach benefits.
We recommended these items:
We provided a brand plan advocating the household sanitizer/cleaner product be introduced first. It had the broadest appeal and helped customers adjust to Clorox moving out of the laundry room. Then the other products like toilet bowl cleaner would be more acceptable and expected by consumers.
One of the surprises for the company was that their main competitor was not going to be other laundry products companies, but Lysol. While Lysol then “owned” the benefit of disinfecting, it was not thought of as a strong cleaner. Also, consumers didn’t know how Lysol disinfects. This offered the opportunity for a Clorox sanitizer cleaner to position itself as a stronger version because of the ingredient of bleach.