Customer Segmentation Framework for Clorox

Household Cleaners Clean up in 2020

Cleaning products are “having a moment” in 2020.  The growth comes from aerosol disinfectants like Lysol (which recently doubled capacity for production), bath & shower wipes, multipurpose cleaners and more.  Consumers are also shifting their purchases to more expensive, branded cleaning products from leaders like Clorox, Lysol (Reckitt Benckiser) and P&G and away from private label options. It’s the ideal time to discuss the customer segmentation framework for Clorox.

The trend towards more hand washing and better cleaning is expected to continue, with Reckitt Chief Executive Laxman Narasimhan stating:

“Consumers are adopting better hygiene practices.”

Leading manufacturers of branded cleaning products have large brand portfolios.  This case study looks at how Clorox chose to use customer segmentation for brand targeting and portfolio alignment.  

Customer Segmentation Framework Objectives

The main objectives were identified by the Clorox team and drove the work approach. They included:

  • Define overall home cleaning, including laundry, from a consumer point of view
  • Create an actionable segmentation to:
    • Enhance and fully realize scale
    • Leverage unique and actionable insights
    • Enhance Innovation focus and impact
  • Understand how consumers are meaningfully different in overall cleaning vs. laundry vs. kitchen vs. around the house vs. bath perspective
  • Identify the primary differentiators driving usage and purchase decisions based on deep consumer insights around each segment
  • Assess how consumers view the brands in the market: overlap of brands in the portfolio, gaps in current alignment

Specific areas of impact included:

  • Messaging: copy strategy, media plan, consumer promotion tactics
  • Product development: product testing on right target
  • Customer strategy: category growth plans/category captain, customer plans, sales activation
  • Tracking: track performance against segments, including market share, include typing tool in research

A Consumer-Defined Frame of Reference to use in Customer Segmentation Framework

For Clorox, we first examined the question, “What is the correct frame of reference for cleaning?”

For instance, there are cleaning products specifically designed for the bathroom “domain,” and bathroom cleaning and hygiene have unique requirements. There are also cleaning products specifically designed for the kitchen, where food is prepared and grease can be a bigger issue. Hard surface flooring has its own specific requirements, with flooring typically in both the kitchen and the bathroom, along with other rooms of the house (e.g., mudroom, laundry room, family room or great room, etc.).   Cleaning clothing, or doing the laundry, is related, yet distinct from household cleaning. 

Historically, the bathroom domain had a segmentation, the kitchen and around the house domain had a segmentation, and laundry had a segmentation. Clorox’s desire was for a customer segmentation framework that could provide perspective on consumers’ broader attitudes and behaviors around cleaning, as well as still address the specific areas.

The analytic design needed to allow for the possibility of continuing to use separate domains if that was the useful approach, and also to allow for some higher-order domains. This type of flexibility is essential as the right choice depends on the intended application.  Our solution was to design the work for analytic flexibility, so that multiple options could be considered.

Qualitative Insights Informed Customer Segmentation Framework

Cleaning Customer Segmentation for Clorox

To create some higher-level options, we conducted qualitative phone interviews with customers as well as in-home ethnographies observing them going about their cleaning. 

We probed on language alternatives.

For consumers, cleaning is a highly emotional category, with both positive and negative emotions. We witnessed everything from enjoyment, to being overwhelmed, to pride in a job well done, to anger and stress.

There were multiple levels of cleaning, including surface cleaning, with tidying and quick wipe downs, and deep cleaning with sanitizing.  In 2020, sanitizing has taken on more prominence.

We explored a number of frame of reference options, including “home care,” “healthy home,” “caring for your home,” “tidy home,” “well organized home,” and “household chores.”  For purposes of the segmentation at the time, household chores was the best fit. “Home care” tended to be health-related, as in “home care nurse” or “home health aide.”  However, with changing attitudes in 2020, this health association seems well worth revisiting.

“Household chores are a reflection of me and how I run my house.”

“How wonderful it looks after I clean. Walk … don’t feel anything on my feet.”

“Sparkling, everything shiny. I imagine everything to be picture perfect.”

“All of the aspects of cleaning your home? Mopping and sweeping the floor, vacuuming the rug, wiping off the counter, doing the dishes, cleaning the toilets, doing the laundry, making the beds.”

For the primary household cleaner, cleaning and household chores were important to his or her identity and household role. In general, laundry was not generally considered part of cleaning the home, but floor cleaning was for some. 

Customer Segmentation Framework: Robust Sample Design and Multiple Approaches

The quantitative portion of the work included over 3,000 consumers ages 19-64.  The sample included over 150 consumers who took the questionnaire in Spanish, and was carefully balanced on age, household income, ethnicity, region, population density and household size.  A hold out sample was reserved to test the segmentation. 

Three different statistical approaches were used, in addition to the multiple frames of reference. These were convergent cluster analysis, directed k-means and non-hierarchical k-means.   Separate segmentations were created for bathroom, kitchen and laundry. 

The decision was made to use a household chores segmentation for the brand portfolio. This was an explicit choice to best meet the scale objectives. Since then, the laundry team has focused mainly on its own segmentation, consistent with the earlier finding that laundry is often not part of household chores.

The Odd Couple Had Some Things Right about Cleaning

Cleaning Customer Segmentation for Clorox

One of the most fascinating findings of this work was that different people see the same room’s cleanliness differently.  In the quantitative, we tested different images of a kitchen and a bathroom in three states of cleanliness.  It turns out that people literally perceive the cleanliness level completely differently when looking at the same image. For a Felix Unger type, if they see a bit of toothpaste in the bathroom sink and a hair on the counter, the bathroom is very dirty. The Oscar Madison type sees the same room and perceives it as clean. This is a relevant insight for anyone who lives with other people, who may have very different standards of cleanliness.

Customer Segmentation Framework Application to Brand Portfolio

From the segmentation work, seven distinct segments emerged. In general, cleaning and household chores were more important to three of the segments that represented around 45% of US consumers and not important to the others. Two new segments emerged, including a natural cleaning-oriented segment.

Clorox aligned its brand portfolio to distinct targets: the overall Clorox equity focused primarily on a segment that was concerned with health and killing germs, along with overall cleanliness.  This included a number of products such as Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, Clorox Clean Up, and Clorox Liquid Bleach. The Pine Sol brand focused on a segment that was into deep cleaning.  The Tilex and 409 brands focused on a segment that was a bit more organizationally-focused.  A new brand, Green Works, was introduced subsequently for the natural cleaning segment.

With the changes in customer behavior and increased diligence around cleaning, there is a need for an updated perspective. While most brands are hyper-focused on resolving supply issues, this is still an excellent time to reexamine the customer’s needs and the new demand.  A well done customer segmentation study can bridge to pre-COVID and provide a needed blueprint for the next 12-24 months. Contact us to get going on building an actionable customer segmentation around your organization’s needs.

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