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Investors looking for exciting companies to invest in probably have Clorox (NYSE: CLX ) pretty low on their list. Foolish colleague Matt Koppenheffer has taken to calling the company "snore-ox," which is true if you are watching the daily movements of its stock price.
Even less exciting were the company's most recent quarterly results and outlook into the new year. Clorox reported last week that consumers are still not spending as much on the company's core house-care products as expected during this stage of the recovery. Some of that is most likely because of cheaper, private-label brands sold by companies such as Target (NYSE: TGT ) or Safeway (NYSE: SWY ) .
The company also announced it was writing down the value of its recent acquisition of Burt's Bees, essentially an indictment that Clorox overpaid for the purchase. Still, this is Clorox's fastest-growing brand and it should benefit the most from a consumer rebound. While near-term visibility is a bit muddled, the big picture for Clorox remains intact. The company's leadership across many different brands and 27 consecutive years without lowering its dividend should help investors sleep better at night. In fact, shareholders are now receiving 2,833% more than the payment yielded in 1983. Buying the stock today will yield investors about 3.5%.
However, what impresses me most about Clorox is its ability to innovate and find new product ideas from untraditional sources. Change is not easy for corporations, especially for extremely successful businesses that have been around for as long as Clorox has, yet the company has proven willing to take chances to improve its products, especially with regards to social media.
Not a socially awkward company
Clorox has embraced social networking through websites and its own crowdsourcing initiative. For example, its Facebook page now has more than 186,000 followers who are updated on product deals, new initiatives, or just great Clorox facts such as this note posted Monday: "In celebration of National Clean Off Your Desk Day, be sure to de-clutter AND disinfect your desk. After all, the average desk harbors 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat!" Clorox also has Facebook pages for some of its other brands like Burt's Bees, which has more than 237,000 fans.
More impressive, though, is a culture of open innovation that has helped create new product ideas and improvements to existing products. This culture led the company to a very profitable partnership with archrival Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) , something most companies wouldn't even consider. In 2002, P&G's research and development team created new diaper technology. However, that technology also could be used to make sturdier trash bags, which Clorox knew would greatly benefit its Glad branded products. So the two companies worked to form a partnership in which Clorox could use the patented technology to sell its popular ForceFlex trash bags. Just four years after the partnership was formed, Clorox's Glad sales more than doubled, becoming the company's second billion-dollar brand.
Harnessing the crowd
More recently, Clorox has made innovation a group effort led not only by employees, but also suppliers and consumers through its crowdsourcing initiative called Clorox Connects. Its crowdsourced idea generation has a long way to go before it comes even close to matching the innovation of its rival P&G, which now boasts 60% of its product initiatives from crowdsourcing. However, you can only take products like bleach, trash bags, and water filters so far, and Clorox is trying.
The site rewards consumers who contribute solid ideas to the company through a point system that ultimately rewards the top contributors. Potential suppliers who participate on the site have the opportunity to have their ideas seen and heard by management at Clorox, and the opportunity to meet and discuss any product ideas that the company would like to pursue. Crowdsourcing provides an extremely low-cost and effective way to generate new ideas as well as please customers, and Clorox is ahead of the curve in this regard.
Not so boring after all
The sell-off in shares of Clorox as a result of its recent quarterly miss provides a great opportunity for dividend investors to scoop up shares of this great brand. Aside from its dominant market share in its key products, and the yearly dividend increase, Clorox is also cheaper than most of its peers.
|Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL )||9.7|
|Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT )||10.5|
|Avon Products (NYSE: AVP )||10.7|
|Procter & Gamble||11.1|
So whether you are decluttering your desk, or just your portfolio, Clorox looks like a good clean way to do it.
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