Clorox Builds Its DTC Playbook

Clorox’s Vivian Chang will speak at AdExchanger’s upcoming PROGRAMMATIC I/O New York conference on Oct. 15 and 16.

When Clorox acquired dietary supplement maker Nutranext in 2018, it wasn’t just to gain share in the health and wellness category.

Nutranext already owned ecommerce health brands, like vitamin manufacturer Stop Aging Now, so the company also became a direct-to-consumer (DTC) test bed for Clorox. Nutranext even has its own group with top execs from DTC companies dedicated to launching DTC brands.

And Clorox will soon start seeing the results of those tests. In October, Nutranext’s DTC group will launch its first new brand for a wellness product targeted to Gen Xers. And Vivian Chang, Nutranext’s head of growth marketing, will be closely monitoring its progress. Chang joined Nutranext from Plated in July, so she’s used to companies that move at lightning speed.

“We move much faster than a traditional CPG company could,” she said.

Clorox operates the group like a startup. Nutranext has runway to test, learn and adjust strategies incrementally before it’s expected to drive significant revenue for the group.

“They’re not heavy-handed or prescriptive on how things are done,” Chang said. “We don’t have the burden of constantly having to report back.”

While it’s early days for DTC at Clorox, the long-term goal is to share knowledge with other Nutranext and Clorox brands about how to test, learn and grow DTC brands, while absorbing what the parent company knows about brand and retail.

Eventually, Clorox wants to leverage the data it gleans from DTC to build a customer data map that sits across all of its brands at Nutranext and Clorox, online and offline.

“That’s the holy grail probably for all companies, to have cohesive data across everything,” Chang said.

She spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What’s Clorox’s playbook for launching DTC brands? 

VIVIAN CHANG: We are figuring it out. But the core tenet is having the data internally. What is the tech stack and where do you build vs. buy? In some cases, we’re trying to build but we have a back-up solution of a buy if we need it. In other cases, for speed, we’re doing the opposite.

It’s a constant test and learn. For us that means putting out a version of creative we’ve done qualitative testing with among a target audience but we know that we’re going to adjust, whether it’s the logo or the target. We have some general ideas of personas, and we’re testing on social and seeing which ones respond better. Probably every two weeks we’re going to be changing our creative to see what messages and products resonate.

What channels are you testing?

For our brands targeting 55+ year-olds, Facebook still does really well. We have to balance online to offline. We still have a strong customer service team and we still mail out reminders and catalogues that drive revenue for that audience. But we supplement it with email reminders and search, a lot of it content-based, to get that audience interested.

On the new brand, the media plan is very much multichannel. We have to build awareness but it’s more mid-funnel using Facebook, Instagram, even Pinterest. Supplementing it with influencers, display and video will be heavy pieces for retargeting and for reinforcing the message. And then your traditional closers like paid search.

With a new brand, a lot of it is based off of experience. Taking a look at where others are advertising is going to be a key part.

How is Clorox harnessing data and learnings from the DTC group?

We’re going to help Clorox think through testing. Our testing is about holdout groups, running controls and A/B testing. We look at the actual sales data and what that tells us about initial order behavior to start building out a lifetime value assumption.

That’s unique to what Clorox is able to do in retail. In Clorox’s previous world, they would launch a brand that has to be sold through retail, and they controlled very little of it once it’s out there. They don’t have that transactional data. How can they use DTC to get some sense of which ad has the best engagement and conversion data before they roll out something?

How far along is Clorox in building out a customer data map and what do you still need?

Foundationally it’s around customer data. We haven’t decided yet whether we’ll build vs. buy, the order management system and the CMS. A lot of the rest of it is built in house.

On the marketing side we’ll need to use partners, like a DSP. Those will be relationships that we buy and integrate into our system.

How do you see the DTC brands’ media mix and distribution evolving as they grow?

With a new brand, how much do you index on performance media that generally is going to be more efficient, and how much do you spend on awareness? At what point does it make sense to bring TV into the plan?

We’re starting with more measurable channels, not necessarily just transactional. Online video is going to be a really key piece of how we tell the story. But I’m also preparing so we can quickly activate on TV or direct mail, borrowing a page from what DTC brands are doing now.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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