While some consumers are switching to greener cleaners when they can find them, others are foregoing store-bought cleaners all together, realizing that vinegar and water works just as well as an all-purpose cleaner, and is nearly 10 times less expensive.
In fact, a 2009 American Cleaning Institute survey found that already 28 percent of Americans say they've mixed their own cleaners. Thirty-eight percent of people said that they believed it was safer to know what was in the products, the same percentage believed it was cheaper, and 28 percent believed homemade cleaners were more effective.
Concern for chemicals in cleaners isn't accounting for all of these sales declines, but I believe it's one of the easiest issues to resolve. The cultural shifts that have moved Americans from cleaning house top to bottom to more liberal squirts of hand gel have been somewhat imperceptible. And as consumers get wiser to advertising claims, and are listening more to trusted sources like nonprofits and peers, the effectiveness of ads will only become more limited.
This shift in the media landscape has resulted in more corporations prioritizing outreach to mom bloggers. Major cleaning product companies attempt to woo them every year at BlogHer. They host giveaways and purchase ads. It's a smart strategy because mom bloggers hold enormous influence over female consumers.
"Not only does their dedication to social activism make mom bloggers highly influential, but their financial flexibility and willingness to purchase items complimentary to their values also make them a marketing prospect rich with possibilities." says Deirdre McFarland, vice president of marketing and communications at Scarborough Research, which released research on mom bloggers' influence in October.
But something tells me that cleaning product companies wouldn't have to work so hard to woo mom bloggers if they strengthened the integrity of their brand, by taking health and environment more seriously and removing toxins in products and disclosing ingredients on the label.
These actions offer enormous public relations opportunities that will benefit a company's credibility and reputation, because they'll be able to reach a concerned constituency of people who are truly demanding green products.
Not removing toxic chemicals puts companies at risk, which was demonstrated by Johnson & Johnson just last month. A group of nonprofits called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (of which WVE is a founding member) compared labels of baby shampoo around the world, and found that J&J's U.S. and Chinese versions both contained formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, while versions for the European market, which has stronger toxic chemical protections, did not. The media firestorm and customer complaints resulted in J&J forcing to take quick action to remove the chemical.
NGOs, health professionals and parents are ready and willing for cleaning product companies to come clean on their ingredients and take action to remove harmful chemicals. They can start with disclosing ingredients on their labels and removing the hazardous chemicals that turned up in WVE's recently published report. Making these changes will not only benefit the health of consumers buying the products, but it'll also, ultimately, prove to be a wise insurance investment for the credibility of companies' brands.