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How Clorox Used Social Media to Curb Flu Season

Christine Birkner

Goal

Some of the most effective marketing campaigns not only tout product benefits or have an emotional hook, but also help customers solve a problem. Marketers at the Oakland, Calif.-based Clorox Co.​ were trying to do just that when they set out to help people ward off the aches and pains of the cold and flu virus. Over the past few years, Clorox has tracked the spread of the flu internally via social media mentions and CDC data, providing that data to retailers to help them determine levels of product stock for Clorox’s disinfecting wipes and cleaning products. For the 2015-2016 flu season, the company wanted to use that data for a customer-facing marketing campaign.

“We’ve done a lot of work around trying to educate people on health and wellness during the cold and flu season, on things like washing your hands and getting rest. This year, we wanted to do something different. We wanted to provide more value and utility,” says Molly Steinkrauss, associate marketing director at Clorox. 

Action

Clorox worked with social media expert Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, and found that online conversations about the flu spike a week earlier than the number of confirmed cases by the CDC, and therefore, social media could be used to track the liklihood of flu spreading. The study overlaid weekly data on flu prevalence from the CDC and analyzed more than 1 million tweeks for flu-related terms or hashtags, including “flu,” “sickness” and “chicken noodle soup.” 

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Christine Birkner is a freelance writer in Chicago.