As marketers we excel at making same look different. Like bottled water. There’s the healthier choice, the more natural choice, the pure choice, etc. It’s WATER and, personally, I’m hard pressed to tell the difference. The other product category that amazes me is cleaning products. I’ve tried them all and never seen much of a difference. They all do the job. So, why is it that I find myself spending 20 minutes in the cleaning aisle at Target comparing the labels on bathroom cleaners? Three words: green, natural and Clorox, all on the same label. In fact, the label has all of the 99% natural ingredients prominently displayed, right next to its Sierra Club endorsement. This is Innovation and increased profits in a green wrapper.
A little over a year ago Clorox introduced Green Works to compete with the likes of Method and Seventh Generation. This was the first natural cleaner with big brand backing to sell for about 50 cents more than traditional cleaners (as opposed to about $1.50 more for other natural cleaners). Clorox brought the entire natural cleaning products category to mass and grew it by 100%. They saw sales of more than $13.6 million in the first six months and reached the top of the market in eco-friendly cleaners within a year. Prior to this launch most natural cleaning products were hard to find, tucked away in the corners of specialty shops. With the introduction of Green Works, natural cleaning products became commonplace in the big box stores. Seventh Generation, Method, Green Works and new options from other big brands right out in the open.
We’ve had conversations with several manufacturers who are concerned about launching and marketing a separate “green” version of an existing product. What would that say about the existing product – is it bad/poisonous/environmentally irresponsible? We think no. Though we all get paid very well to sit around conference room tables and debate this stuff, consumers don’t give it nearly the amount of thought we all do. In our upcoming Eco Pulse focus groups we’ll be probing on the drivers and motivators behind green purchase decisions in several product categories. What we know now is that consumers may buy a green product/exhibit a green behavior in one area, but not in another. So they might take a reusable grocery bag to the store but drive there in an SUV. They want choice and they want to make decisions about whether to go green or buy traditional on a category-by-category, product-by-product basis. This is why Clorox has seen so much success with Green Works. They created a better product at a slightly higher (yet still reasonable) price and kept the old product relevant. They gave people a choice: A great product -or- a great natural product.
Clorox created a product that performs as well as the competition (and their own product), gave consumers an affordable choice and basically threw in green as a bonus. This is an excellent case study for other companies to follow: Green as a platform for innovation and increased market share.