The Definitive Guide to Business with Marcus Lemonis

Why out-of-touch branding could spell demise for this company

Luxury and glamour may be an aspiration for many of us, but when it comes to cleaning the toilet, it's usually not top of mind.

Max Kater, founder and CEO of Murchison-Hume, has been working to change that. Her collection of plant-based cleaning products aims to make "everyday domestic tasks more glamorous so it feels like a treat."

Developed in 2008 to combat her 18-month-old son's troubles with eczema, asthma and allergies, Kater wanted her products, which include dishwashing soap, shoe spray and glass cleaners, to be both safe for her son as well as lavish.

So far, though, her plan isn't going well, and turnaround king Marcus Lemonis, star of CNBC's "The Profit," thinks her out-of-touch branding is a major cause.

After five years in the U.S., Kater's products have failed to connect to American consumers, and last year her company lost $477,000, she said on the latest episode of the reality business show.

Marcus Lemonis talks with Murchison-Hume’s staff (from L to R) Hannah, Taylor Nowaskie, Kathleen Albony and Max Kater.
CNBC
Marcus Lemonis talks with Murchison-Hume’s staff (from L to R) Hannah, Taylor Nowaskie, Kathleen Albony and Max Kater.

The problem, according to Lemonis: Most people don't aspire to be the queen of England while scrubbing the kitchen sink.

He encouraged Kater to drop Murchison-Hume's aristocratic brand identity in order to better connect with the masses.

Right off the bat, Lemonis advised Kater to change the name. "You want it to be something memorable [that] has real clarity to it, not something with gravitas like a law firm," he said, referencing the company's current name.

Lemonis also suggested that the complementary logo on each product offering be clear enough for the average person to identify. "The more esoteric the icon is and the name is, people are like, 'Oh my God, what is this? Is it shampoo? Do I use it in the ladies bathroom?'" he said.

Murchison-Hume’s cleaning products have been selling sluggishly on shelves at The Container Store. Due to problems with branding and price, the products have been placed on bottom-level shelves.
CNBC
Murchison-Hume’s cleaning products have been selling sluggishly on shelves at The Container Store. Due to problems with branding and price, the products have been placed on bottom-level shelves.

For example, he urged the Murchison-Hume team to switch out an image of a lady with a bun on a bathroom cleaner product because it seemed to allude to a hair-care product. "You need to be able to deliver something clear and understandable for everybody," said the TV host.

Lastly, a brand can become muddled when you don't have a well-defined group of products, Lemonis explained. He pointed out that Kater's variety of products was too diverse, and that she should eliminate unrelated household cleaning items such as candles and garment cleaner.

"We can have the best price in the world and the best product in the world, but none of it's going to matter if we don't have our branding right," he said.

Despite the advice, Kater was uncomfortable rebranding her company. Though she and Lemonis initially shook hands and agreed on a deal ($250,000 for 30 percent of the business, and a 70 percent stake in the company's Best in Show pet products), they broke it off by the end of the episode.

Video by CNBC's Zack Guzman. CNBC's "The Profit" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EDT.