Clorox Is Preparing for a World With More—But Less Obvious—Marketing, Says CMO Eric Reynolds

'We have to be better about making it matter to people'

Eric Reynolds, CMO of Clorox, on stage at ANA Masters of Marketing week in Orlando, Fla. Getty Images
Headshot of Diana Pearl

At last month’s ANA Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando, Fla., marketers from across the world gathered to discuss innovations and successes in the industry as well as the challenges that they face. And through it all, one question loomed large over the event’s attendees: Does marketing still matter? And perhaps more importantly, will it matter in another decade?

Eric Reynolds, CMO of The Clorox Company, which owns brands like Burt’s Bees, Hidden Valley, Fresh Step and of course, Clorox itself, isn’t too worried about a potential disappearance of marketing, he told Adweek after his presentation at ANA. Instead, he’s more concerned with the major changes that are coming (and have already arrived) in marketing, in large part thanks to the greater availability of customer data and advances in technology.

Marketers’ primary task—to make compelling marketing that resonates with consumers—hasn’t changed. But the ability to do so has become more difficult, with the rise of digital (and all the advertising formats that have come with it) and the decline of more traditional mediums, like broadcast television.

“My belief in marketing’s ability to matter is unshaken, but we have to be better about making it matter to people,” Reynolds told Adweek, adding that marketers should be asking: “Are we compelling and interesting and valuable to a human? If we hold everything to that standard, we would really matter.”

His prediction for the future of marketing is that it will be more plentiful—but in less obvious ways. “It’s going to be all about getting the right people to have the right conversations,” he continued. “There will be more marketing, but it’ll be less obvious. It’ll be more inside people’s lives. People are going to be going to their trusted networks for information, not their traditional media.”

Clorox is preparing for this transition already, with marketing that leans heavily on the effectiveness of the company’s products, content-first partnerships with influencers and in-house creation that allows for a speedier turnaround.

In years past, Reynolds said that Clorox would “apologize for being a cleaning brand.” Now, it views cleaning as a selling point and central to its purpose.

“Championing a cleaner world where people thrive,” he said. “That’s a nice tagline, but it really says that clean actually matters. And then driving our communications and our innovation behind that.” And positioning products as best-in-class helps with that.

Brand partnerships are a big part of what the company is doing right now, particularly ones that have a fun twist on them. In a nod to much of the country’s tendency to dip pizza crusts in ranch dressing, Hidden Valley is sponsoring the Museum of Pizza pop-up experience in Brooklyn, which Reynolds calls “a great, fun, relevant way to celebrate the taste profile of ranch.”

These culturally relevant partnerships also come in the form of working with influencers. Over the past few years, Clorox has rolled out partnerships with celebrities like Stephen Curry and YouTube stars like Hannah Hart. And going forward, the content that comes from those influencer partnerships will become more central to directing the rest of Clorox’s marketing strategy.

Instead of starting with a more traditional campaign and incorporating influencers in later, they’ll swap that timeline so it’s influencer first. For example, if an influencer like Hart makes a video for a Clorox brand, they’ll recut it for more traditional video platforms—even TV.

It’s innovations like these that have Reynolds hopeful about marketing’s future, even if will take a bit of thinking. “My belief in marketing’s ability to matter is unshaken,” he said, adding: “But we have to be better about making it matter to people.”

@dianapearl_ Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.