Clorox's drive to be more 'human-centered' after 'utterly failing'

The CMO admitted multiple failures in connecting Clorox's brands to consumers -- and revealed the question he's wrestling with to secure future success.

Around a year ago, The Clorox Company launched a new campaign for its probiotic brand Renew Life.

The anthem spot celebrated everything that makes us who we are with an unapologetic, motivational film that spoke to the diversity and inclusion conversation and carried the tagline: "Being human take guts."

It had all the hallmarks of a successful brand initiative. But it was a total failure.

"It was completely and utterly and spectacularly ineffective," Eric Reynolds, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Clorox, told a crowd at the ANA Masters conference in Orlando on Friday.

"I’m told as a CMO to fail fast and cheap. I certainly got the fail part, but it was slow and expensive. I failed. The agency didn’t fail -- that is a beautiful piece of film, built with love and care and so on-brief. That wasn’t an agency problem, that was a strategy problem."

The issue, he said, came down to not taking enough care and understanding of the consumer journey to enhance personal wellness. Clorox didn’t lean into where he/she is on that journey and the role probiotics could play.

"Now we have to go back and build the brand," Reynolds said.

The CMO said Clorox -- and all modern brands -- have to check three boxes: be human-centered (understand people are on personal journeys); be purpose-driven (know what brands stand for beyond making money) and; be technology and data-enabled.

Reynolds called for adland to start from scratch and look to where it all started for answers to the future of marketing.

He added: "I think all of this gets back to starting where this industry began, which is being useful to real people. Not consumers, but humans. If we were really human-centered, how much would change? The problem with this statement is that it’s so ridiculously easy to agree with and it exceptionally hard to do.

"What would the data privacy discussion be right now if this entire ANA body was human-centered? Why is the data discussion about compliance -- shouldn’t it be changing the paradigm? A new contract between us and people?

"Are we truly human centered? It’s the question we’re wrestling with. If we go back to what started this industry, can it essentially be our way out of this expensive, incredible mess?"

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