The iconic Clorox brand name has the power to strike fear and envy in the hearts of competitors, but maybe not so much in the pool chemical industry.
In August, Toronto, Canada-based KIK Custom Products announced plans to partner with The Clorox Co. to add its brand name to some of KIK’s pool chemical products in 2014. The company came armed with the acquisition of one large pool chemical company in 2011 and a plan to purchase another one by the end of 2013.
“KIK has pool and spa capabilities; Clorox has an iconic national brand,” says Doreen Gormley, KIK’s senior vice president of business. “KIK’s category experience enables fast speed to market and allows Clorox to continue focusing its internal resources on other priorities.”
KIK says the product launch will include a full assortment of pool and spa care products, including accessories. “We are committed to on-going innovation from year to year, so you can count on seeing new things in the future,” company officials say.
KIK, not Clorox, will manufacture the products. It plans to put the Clorox name on its Easy 1 2 3 Pool Care LLC subsidiary product.
Some industry sources don’t expect the strong branding move to have much impact on independent pool retailers because KIK plans to focus “for now” on the mass merchants where the firm now sells its Easy 1 2 3 Pool Care line.
“The consumer who buys from mass merchants couldn’t care less what the brand is. [But] if it’s sitting next to Murphy’s Chlorine, they’re going to buy Clorox,” says Jeff Fausett, president of United Aqua Group, a Las Vegas-based buying group.
Others question the ability of any pool chemical brand, no matter how established, to make the leap into a consumer’s mind.
“If you asked someone, ‘Hey, what chemicals are you putting in your pool?’ They wouldn’t have a clue,” says Art Harre, president of pool and spa products for Haviland USA.
“Brand recognition is difficult within the industry,” he adds. “DuPont did it with a product in the mid-80s, now nobody knows DuPont has pool chemicals.”
More recently OxiClean met with Haviland about adding its name to six specialty pool chemicals, but when Harre told them that they might sell just $300,000 in product they were surprised and dropped the idea.
“They said, ‘Man, this is a waste of time, we were expecting some huge royalties,’” Harre recalls. “They had no clue of the size of the pool business.”
Overall, Harre is skeptical that the Clorox branding will be a runaway success: “I think it will be a difficult launch. It would not surprise me if four years down the road Clorox pulls the plug.”
KIK hopes its partnership with Clorox will serve as a stepping stone for future growth in the pool and spa industry, a segment the company entered in 2011 by buying Chem-Lab Products of Ontario, Calif.