How a legacy cleaning supplies brand is using Spotify to juice engagement

President and owner Alison Gutterman of Jelmar, the company that makes Tarn-X and CLR, says music and cleaning are an intuitive fit—but that’s only the tip of the spear for her campaign.

For Jelmar President Alison Gutterman, the idea to launch a branded Spotify playlist started with her own dislike for cleaning.

“I have to be honest,” she jokes, “I am not known for my cleaning skills. It’s one the least favorite things I do on the planet. But put me in a room with some good music, and I’m always moving. I love to dance; I love to move.

“We thought: Maybe I’m not the only one that is inspired by music to clean.”

Jelmar started in 1949 and has become a storied brand in the cleaning supplies industry, more recognizable by the names of its products “Tarn-X” and “CLR.” Gutterman is the third-generation family owner of a company that sells its products in every major retailer in the U.S.

Now the company is launching a series of Spotify playlists to engage with consumers as they use its products.

For Gutterman the move is all about interacting with consumers and potentially bringing in new audiences so they can learn about her storied company.

“It seemed to be a really great way for us to not only attract more consumers—who sign up for our playlist—but also to get them engaged,” she says.  “Because what I’m really interested to know is what music is inspiring for other people to clean with?”

Community at its core

Like any good campaign, Gutterman said they started with research.

A sponsored survey confirmed what Jelmar’s leader already believed to be true: Music and cleaning are a perfect pair. Then it was time to discuss campaign goals. Gutterman says it started with an asset Jelmar already had: an engaged Facebook group.

“We are known to have a very engaged community of people that follow us on Facebook,” she says—and that online participation is the key.

“I think the engagement from other people is what is going to be successful,” she says. “I could have a million people that are subscribing to my playlist—those could be the million people that would buy my product anyhow.” Instead, she wants to focus on how online users interact with her brand online. Do they share their own playlists? Do they suggest additions to a CLR-branded playlist?

Those are the connections Gutterman is hoping for.

“It’s still a word-of-mouth campaign,” she says, “which is the most powerful way to market your product and to market it to younger people.

“I’m not going to necessarily be able to attribute my sales to somebody listening to my playlist, but if somebody comments and says: ‘Wow, you know what, I have a good feeling about this company that I never knew anything about’… they’ll engage and they’ll go back and research our product line.”

A strong foundation

Gutterman’s campaign succeeds because of the extensive work that she does to establish her company’s brand with a website, a Facebook presence and her own personal brand.

“Well, we have a pretty robust website,” she says. “We have 500,000 people actively engaged on Facebook—and when you look at actual engagement, we are pretty high.”


She’s also actively working to be the face of her organization, with the help of a little media training and a background in the performing arts.

“I do a lot of speaking engagements,” she says. “I write a blog. I write about really much more personal things. We are much more different than the Cloroxes and Procter & Gambles of the world.”

It helps, she says, that her family company has a compelling story: “We were what a startup really was.”

She hits the familiar beats of a modern-day Silicon Valley fairytale. “The fact that my grandfather did one with a thousand dollars and didn’t have more than an eighth-grade graduation, we’re kinda like the American dream that no one knows about,” she says.

When asked how she became comfortable being the face of her company, she points to her early involvement in theater and communications.

“I was a speech major in college and really interested in drama before that, so I think getting out in front of people, sharing my story, doesn’t seem so off-putting to me,” she says. “It seems pretty comfortable.”

Perhaps Gutterman’s secret weapon is her ability to be her authentic self. “Have I had media training? Yeah, I’ve had media training,” she says. “But luckily I haven’t had any instances where my personality has to be changed because of what I do.”

The digital revolution

For a brand that came to prominence as one of the first ever “As Seen on TV” products, Gutterman’s company might seem like a surprising digital powerhouse, but the company is looking carefully at changing consumer shopping patterns and seeks to target digital shoppers.

“We are pretty interested in that digital space,” Gutterman says.  “We just recently changed our advertising agency” to create a bigger digital presence.

That means investing in online content—which might be the true genius of a Spotify playlist campaign.

“This is a timeless activation piece because we can always go back,” Gutterman says. “For the holidays, you are sprucing up your house during the holidays, what kind of holiday music gets you in the mode of cleaning? It can transverse into different activations through time, which I really like. It can come back.”

That’s useful for a company that has only 17 employees yet is competing with billion-dollar corporations for market share. The number of people working on the campaign at any given time? Just a handful.

“I have a director of marketing and a chief growth officer, and then we have wonderful partnerships with our PR agency in California,” says Gutterman. “Two people at Jelmar and four or five people who are working at our PR agency.”

Defining success

Gutterman admits that showing return on investment for this campaign will be difficult. Even the engagement she is counting on will be intermittent, and she expects it will shrink over time.

“It’s hard to measure it specifically,” she says. “Unless we keep posting about the Spotify playlist every three or four months, it’s going to dwindle down after a certain amount of time.”

However, she does have a very specific goal for her campaign: reaching a new generation of consumers.

“It’s not just enough that the parents are using [my product]; the kids have to use it,” she says. “How are younger generations interacting with their living space? Millennials aren’t cleaning in the same way. They want convenience. They want to make it more efficient.”

It all comes back to engagement, getting consumers to think: “Wow, this is a really cool company.”

Just because the results are hard to quantify doesn’t mean Gutterman won’t use all the data at her disposal.

“In the past we were not the best consumers of data for our company, and now we are becoming much more involved in the data,” she says, “So we can come up with the best products that will meet [consumer] needs.”

What do you think of this tuneful campaign, PR Daily readers? How are you using music to connect with current consumers and new audiences?


PR Daily News Feed

Sign up to receive the latest articles from PR Daily directly in your inbox.