New York Times READ

Clorox the Oval Office?

Published by Engagement Labs August 09, 2019

Political Joke Explodes in Social Media, but Offline Clorox Conversations Have Been Building for Months


When the CMO of Clorox said last year his marketing strategy was “trying to get people to have the right conversations” about his brands, he surely did not anticipate the phrase “Clorox the Oval Office” would enter the American lexicon during the Democratic Party presidential debates the following summer. 

In what was widely described as the “line of the night,” Senator Kristin Gillibrand of New York claimed her first act as president would involve applying the venerable bleach brand to the surfaces of the most powerful office in the land.  Consumer conversations in social media exploded on her use of the suggestive phrase, more than doubling the brand’s previous social media high. 

As we reported last December, Clorox’s emphasis on conversation was already helping it to stand out in a category that is rarely a big topic of conversation—but they have been doing it in the real world, with steadily rising levels of offline conversation. Over the last two years, the brand had regularly been the topic of more than 40 million conversations per week, compared to about 30 million per week previously.

 Online and Offline Volume Metrics for Clorox Brand 

Eric Reynolds, the Clorox CMO, said last October that he is changing the brand’s approach to marketing, to make it more “conversational.”

“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.” - Eric Reynolds, Clorox

Data from the TotalSocial platform demonstrate that the brand has had considerable success with its conversation strategy.  Time will tell whether Clorox receives any lasting additional benefit from the New York Senator’s turn of phrase, either in terms of offline conversation or purchases. 

From the Senator’s perspective, the more pressing question is whether her memorable line has sufficiently boosted her profile to earn a spot on the debate stage in September. As of this writing, she has not yet reached the polling threshold required to qualify.

Back in 1984, presidential candidate Walter Mondale memorably ripped-off the Wendy’s hamburger catch-phrase “Where’s the beef?” in a Democratic nomination debate but lost in the general election to Ronald Reagan.  Meantime, the brand did extremely well. Wendy’s enjoyed a 31% increase in revenues based on the popular phrase.


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