The Clorox “6 Mistakes” Essay: Showcasing a Need for Good Research

Invoke Solutions qualitative quantitative online focus group employee motivationBeing in the market research field for so many years now, I have a lot of trouble watching a brand do something that gets consumers scratching their heads or voicing public complaints (or worse, boycotting products) without immediately wondering what research drove such a creation. For example, I found myself wondering this when Tropicana introduced their new packaging back in 2009 or when Hyundai ran their “pipe job” ad in the UK. When you see such a negative reaction from the public, you have to wonder how something like this even gets created.

This recently happened to me when I read about Clorox’s recent “6 Mistakes New Dads Make” snafu. In case you haven’t heard, Clorox recently posted on their website a “comical” essay outlining some mistakes that new Dads may make. Well, new sitcom Dads, I guess, as the mistakes ran the gamut from opting to show their kids reality TV rather than read a book to bringing their child to a casino or pool hall.

Now, as a father and a market researcher, I can take offense on both sides. But, honestly, most of the offenses to dear old Dad can be easily found in basically every article referencing this essay. Words such as “sexist” and “hate speech” have already been used in reference to “6 Mistakes.” And some of these gripes have raised pretty heated “Are we, as a society, too sensitive” types of debates. So I will refrain from going too deep into such an argument here. Though I will say the fact they told us Dads to “embrace parental sacrifice and crack a book” particularly rubbed me in a wrong way.

It is the offense I take as a market researcher I want to focus on here. Based on the negative reception this has gotten in the past few days, I can’t imagine this was even put in front of consumers before it ran. And maybe you, personally, don’t think this was all that offensive but enough people did that I am sure at least a few people at Clorox are worried about their brand taking a pretty big hit.

So here are 4 pieces of research advice for Clorox:

  1. Be careful what you put online – Again, maybe this seemed like a harmless little fluff piece to Clorox. But in this day and age, where bloggers can so quickly elevate an issue and consumers can so easily and publicly voice their complaints, brands need to understand even something they may view as a small, inconsequential post on their website can blow up rather quickly. And even though it may have already been taken down, it’s not all that hard to find a screenshot so it may take a while before it really goes away. Clorox should have taken the advice we typically save for teens regarding what they put online – make sure you are completely confident with everyone seeing what you post before you post it. Meaning? Get a read on something like this before you expose it to, essentially, the whole world.
  2. Get unbiased feedback – Maybe Clorox did test it internally. Maybe they ran it by some people in the office and maybe there were some chuckles and nods of encouragement before the decision was made to post it. And this may seem like common sense, but this can’t really be considered an unbiased look at something like this. A research option that gives consumers an anonymous way of providing feedback (such as, shameless plug, Invoke Live) is a good way to ensure you get real answers rather than consumers telling your brand what they think you want to hear.
  3. Get both qual and quant feedback – It is definitely important to gauge how something like this might do across key measures such as likeability, likelihood to recommend and (probably most importantly in a case like this) impact on brand. However, it is also imperative to let consumers tell you in their own words what they like and dislike about something like this and how something like this makes them feel to really understand how something like this may be perceived. Unfortunately for Clorox, now they are hearing right from the consumer’s (and blogger’s and journalist’s) mouth the impact of this piece. But imagine if Clorox had first run this by consumers before putting this out for the public to see. How valuable would it have been to get this type of feedback before putting something like this out there?
  4. Apply what you’ve learned – When these types of tests are run, the most important thing is to use what consumers tell you.   If consumers tell you a specific piece of communication isn’t working or they would change a specific line in an essay like this, listen and apply it. You, as a brand, work for your consumers. You shouldn’t have a problem with them telling you what to do.

Overall, I don’t think the intention on Clorox’s part was to be insulting, offensive or sexist. I honestly believe they were simply trying to get a lighthearted, humorous essay out on what they saw as a harmless stereotype. But that’s only what I think. There are a lot of opinions out there. And it only takes a vocal minority to get people thinking something differently. And a simple Google search on “Clorox Dads” is a good lesson in how powerful the online consumer voice can be and how necessary it is to predict what these voices will be saying through sound market research.

So please, brands, think before you post,


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