Among the trifecta of chief marketing officers interviewed at ANA's Masters of Marketing for one podcast ( Episode 44 of Insider InSites ), I had the great pleasure of sitting across from Stacey Grier (pictured below), who is the newish CMO of The Clorox Company. We discussed how:
· Its brands, such as Britta, are helping reduce single-use plastics and improve sustainability efforts for the company
· Grier and her team are moving from storytelling to "story-doing" by "living our values"
The following has been edited for clarity and length. Read Part 1, featuring the takeaways from Alicia Tillman of SAP, too. And catch the entire podcast with Grier, Tillman, and Meredith's Alysia Borsa everywhere, including Stitcher, Spotify, iHeartRadio, GooglePodcasts, Apple, TuneIn, and YouTube.
E.B. Moss: Last year, at the ANA Masters of Marketing I had the chance to interview your predecessor, Eric Reynolds, who is now EVP. What was your path to the CMO role at The Clorox Company?
Grier : I spent almost 30 years on the agency side and a good portion of that building the Clorox brands. Then I came to Clorox to run brand and marketing strategy. I'd done that for about two years, and then — about four months after taking the assignment to run our brand engagement group, which is all of our commerce channel and content — I got the offer for CMO.
Moss: With our podcast theme of being female while CMO — along with Alicia Tillman and Alysia Borsa — while you're each highly recognizable and capable, do you think that you had any different level of anxiety about taking on the job than a man might have had?
Grier : I actually did not think about it until I got home, and my husband said, "Has there ever been a female CMO at Clorox?" And I realized it there had not. But Clorox as a company has a lot of female leaders, so it is an environment [in which] women really thrive. My boss is female. There are lots of female executives and on our board, as well.
Moss: We recognize the importance of that kind of environment at MediaVillage and are spotlighting those who foster it — like Shelly Zalis of the Female Quotient — with our Advancing Diversity Honors.
Grier : We can talk about diversity, but it is inclusion that makes the difference: Do you feel like you can bring your best self to work every single day because somebody has created an environment where you can be yourself?
Moss: Now, as an influential woman yourself, let's talk about what's going on with influencer marketing at The Clorox Company?
Grier : We're leaning harder and harder into that…. And we've looked at all kinds of influencers, from macro to micro. We're fortunate to have a diverse portfolio,with everything from Burt's Bees to Liquid-Plumr. So, each brand is using it in somewhat of a different way. But we've seen the power of that in terms of connecting with people ... and having brands that can hand ideas over to someone and let them bring their creativity to that brand and make it richer and better.
Moss: What are you working on that you're excited about?
Grier : The work we've just put out into the world for Brita: the brand invented a water bottle you can carry with you and filter water from anywhere. We really believe that we're making water better for people and the planet. Because, as you know, single-use plastic in the world is a huge problem … only a very small amount of it is actually getting recycled and it's everywhere. So, we're very committed to that and we've done a lot of good work. It's called Drink Like You Care … because you're [saying] you care, but you're not drinking like you care.
This conference — where we talk about purpose and being a force for good — is a good example of that: We have more bottled water here .... and we've gotten so used to drinking bottled water that we don't think about it anymore.
Moss: There is, as you mentioned, a through-line with [Sustainable Brands' initiative] Brands for Good…. Being part of the CMO council here with ANA, please take an opportunity to talk about one more example: the tie in with Burt's Bees and Nat Geo.
Grier : Burt's is our original purpose-driven brand…. [When we acquired the brand], they taught us so much about purpose and how to treat a brand in a responsible way and get people excited about it. What we're doing with Nat Geo is about trying to remind people that if we don't take care of nature, we're going to lose it.
For the UN Climate Summit, we and Nat Geo actually posted a blackout. And we invited all of our followers to do it, as well. Then we invited people to take simple ways to help the environment and gave $10 to Nat Geo to start cleaning up the problem for every hundred people who signed up. We're excited about living our values. We're trying to move from just storytelling to "story-doing."
Moss: Well, we're on the same page: Invoking Advancing Diversity again, our theme is moving from advocacy to activism. So, hopefully, this is a trend...
Grier : Our core value at Clorox is, "Do the right thing." And we have worked very hard to focus on inclusion. We do feel like it's a choice that people make, and the more education people get, the more inclusive they become. So, the fact that people like you are out there teaching people how to be more inclusive is powerful; it will go a long way in the world as people grow up and realize there is something that makes all of us feel unique and different and separated.... If we can all work really hard to bring out the best in people, it changes the work environment tremendously. And people actually bring their ideas to the table because they're not afraid of being rejected.
Moss: Another area that Eric and I touched on last year was the use of digital. As a company, and you personally, have been on record in support of Facebook, for example. And in some of my recent podcasts, like with your agency and friend Jennifer Zimmerman of mcgarrybowen, [we had] a whole discussion around data influencing creative.... Tell me about your philosophy.
Grier : My philosophy is that it's a cycle. I think we can get tremendous insights from data that really help us understand people better — particularly, as we start to think about how we personalize more for people so that we can talk to you in ways that are more relevant. My background in the creative agency is strategy, so finding that inspiration for a creative idea very easily comes out of data. None of this works, though, until you have a great creative idea, bring it back into the world through data, and [then use it to give consumers] content that's more relevant.
For example, if you looked for Hidden Valley recipe content on our site, we have an analytics recommendation engine there, not unlike Netflix. That tells you the next piece of content you'd like.... And if you're there for the third or fourth time, we'll look at the recipes you've been interested in and customize those recipes. [We know that] when people look at two or more recipes on Hidden Valley, we get about 40 percent incremental sales; it's better for us and it's better for the consumer. So, we're trying to use data in ways that really help people, not just sell product…. You have a better experience as a result, and you buy our product.
Moss: Let's focus on marketing channels and tactics. Near and dear to my heart is the use of voice, like brands creating voice assistants to help customers automatically order and help with other things. What's the Clorox Company doing with it?
Grier : We have certainly invested in chatbots — not only for consumers, but we actually have a chatbot that helps people navigate our systems internally. So, yes, we believe in that.
I think the question around audio is not where will it explode; it's when will it explode? It's such a natural way that we take in information, that it absolutely has to be there. I think brands haven't quite found their voice…. But, I think, as we get better at doing that as an industry, people will want to connect more and more with them.
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