Founded 107 years ago as the Electro-Alkaline Co. with an initial investment of $500 in Oakland, Calif., the firm launched with just one product: Clorox liquid bleach. Horse-drawn wagons delivered the returnable five-gallon jugs of the chemical concoction to clean industrial equipment.
A century later, the brand has expanded into a slew of other household cleaning supplies with and without bleach. Clorox also has changed its look several times since the company’s inception.
As an older brand facing an ever-growing crowd of direct-to-consumer cleaning competitors popular with millennials and Gen Z, Clorox needed a new strategy to compete. Its new approach had to focus more on sustainability, which is a higher priority for new generations than it was for their parents. Clorox would also need a more relatable image through channels that younger consumers are already using, like social media. And because its global distribution spans myriad cultures and markets, Clorox also had to ensure that the color, design and presentation of the new brand assets didn’t carry any unintended connotations.
The end-game of Clorox’s rebrand was to sharpen its purpose, creating a more “emotional way of connecting to our consumers,” according to Magnus Jonsson, Clorox Co.’s U.S. cleaning division vp. The brand also wanted to ensure it was presenting a consistent image to shoppers.
Jonsson said it focused on millennials because they’re settling down, starting families and beginning to pay attention to brands that can make it easier to keep a clean house or prevent the spread of germs. To reach millennials, Jonsson said Clorox is working to create a more authentic and sustainable marketing approach that “drives optimism into the brand.”
While sustainability is a “top priority” for Clorox, said Jonsson, the desire to appeal to millennial consumers required the brand to “think about sustainability in a different manner than we have in the past.” In its pursuit to become more sustainable, for example, Clorox recently launched new compostable wipes.
Clorox worked with creative agency CBX on the new logo, its first update in nearly two decades.
“When you haven’t defined your brand standards for 20 years, you end up with an inconsistent look and feel,” said Jonsson.
As they experimented with new designs, the company prioritized eye-tracking research to ensure consumers had a positive perception of the changes and were able to quickly locate the product on store shelves.
According to Chris Cook, associate creative director at CBX, the company’s legacy required designers to be “sensitive to the things you shift.” While honoring its color scheme and chevron design, they scrapped the angled type for something more “confident” that “has a lighter weight.”
To launch a robust social media marketing campaign, the company formed an influencer advisory council last month made up of largely millennial influencers whose online personas revolve around family life and parenting, like The LaBrant Fam on YouTube and Neely Moldovan and Adam Ali on Instagram.
While Clorox declined to share any information related to the rebrand’s impact on sales, experts are split on whether the company made the right call with such a subtle shift in design and strategy.
“It’s a very professional, well-considered brand evolution,” said Mario Natarelli, managing partner at branding agency MBLM. Focusing on creating a “frictionless” shopping experience by prioritizing eye-tracking research is a best practice, Natarelli added, but “it’s not innovative.”
Measuring “find-ability” on a shelf also makes a critical assumption about shopping habits, said marketing analyst Jenn Leire, vp of client engagement at Analytics Partners.
While the redesign looks “fresher, brighter, cleaner and more modern,” said brand consultant Bruce Drinkwater, CEO at design agency StormBrands, he questioned whether the brand is relying too much on its heritage as the reason for purchase.
Debbie Millman, chair of the masters in branding program at the School of Visual Arts, saw the rebrand as a missed opportunity. With DTC brands disrupting the cleaning space with strong sustainability messaging and creative marketing, there’s room for a new approach. She said given Clorox’s scale, breadth and reputation, it had the opportunity to “move the entire category forward.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Clorox is owned by P&G. It is owned by the Clorox Company.