Sunday, October 17, 2021

After surfaces and floors, brands now battle for air space; Dabur, Godrej create air sanitiser segment

Air fresheners are now air sanitisers. Meanwhile, air conditioners and air purifiers repurpose their USP to suit the times – they claim to kill viruses.

The newest segment in the world of antiviral product marketing is air sanitiser. The product is exactly what it claims to be. It is a spray that kills viruses that are suspended in the air. We first spotted the product when we saw Dabur’s ad for Odonil air sanitizer, featuring Bollywood actress Raveena Tandon.

Odonil began staking claim in the germ-killing space as early as May, well before launching the spray. We spotted 10-second YouTube pre-roll ads then, which claimed that the TEG (Triethylene Glycol) in Odonil air freshener pouches can help kill germs in the air in bathrooms. Based on the same active ingredient, the spray supposedly kills viruses and germs suspended mid-air.

Interestingly, there are pre-existing product categories that want to make the air we breathe better – air fresheners (core USP – fragrance), air purifiers (machines that remove pollutants from the air) and air conditioners or ACs (born to regulate temperature, they now come with in-built purifiers that kill viruses too). All three segments are repurposing their promises to suit the times.

For example, in its latest commercial, air conditioner brand Blue Star promises to rid the air of viruses and germs. Hong Kong-based company Aurabeat claims that it can kill the Coronavirus, and has seen a global surge in demand since the pandemic began.

Vineet Jain,
Category Head – Home Care,
Dabur India

Vineet Jain, Category Head – Home Care, Dabur India, says that the idea of Odonil air sanitizer originated from the growing concerns of air quality, and how people have started tracking the air quality index (AQI) on a regular basis.

“The need was heightened in recent times, due to the Covid pandemic, people are taking extreme care by using products like hand sanitisers, surface sanitisers, etc. However, there were no products to sanitise the air, despite the fact that a normal sneeze can contain up to 40,000 droplets, which can carry infectious germs. In the current scenario, it’s highly important to keep germs away from the air,” said Jain.

The spray, he says, was a natural fit under the Odonil brand, as it already has equity in the ‘air freshness’ space. He hopes that the new product, an “upgraded version of existing room fresheners”, will help “reposition Odonil as an air care expert”.

The tagline in the ad is ‘Hawa Ka Doctor’. Jain says, “It is a breakthrough, considering that existing products and formats provide the benefit of fragrance only.” He expects demand for this product to grow, as awareness around air sanitisation builds among consumers.

Rivalling Dabur in the air is Godrej

Somasree Bose Awasthi,
Head Marketing (homecare),
Godrej Consumer Products (GCPL)

For Somasree Bose Awasthi, Head Marketing (homecare), Godrej Consumer Products (GCPL), the strategic intent behind the launch of Godrej Aer Fresh + safe range is to cater to the need for hygiene, while continuing to give the core benefit of fragrance.

“It’s a 2-in-1 product, with the dual benefit of fragrance as well as 99.9% germ protection. Our learning from consumer interactions has been that existing room spray users would love to have germ protection as a value addition. New users find fresheners with germ protection more relevant in the current times,” says Awasthi.

GCPL has launched three products in this range – air and surface sanitiser spray, travel sanitiser spray, and fabric sanitiser spray.

“While the fear of the pandemic is still around, gradual ‘unlocking’ is also happening. Hence, the usage of sanitiser sprays has multiplied exponentially, and should continue to increase,” Awasthi says, adding that the relevance of the new range is tied to consumers’ need to ensure safety, while stepping out for unavoidable reasons like work.

Godrej is promoting these products in an influencer-led campaign that features leading TV/OTT actors, who talk about how they’re staying safe at work.

Expert opinion

Rajesh Gangwani

Will the air sanitiser segment grow, or is it a fad at best? Branding and communication consultant Rajesh Gangwani acknowledges the need for new types of products to protect ourselves against an invisible enemy.

The former adman (who has worked with J Walter Thompson for over 27 years) opines that this (air sanitisers) is yet another category that caters to the heightened sensitivity of consumers, who want to keep themselves and their families safe.

“The aerosol format is familiar, as the old room fresheners (the perfume in some cases was good enough to knock you dead) were in the same form. Perhaps, with the added benefit of germ kill, the category will get a new lease of life with, hopefully, a more subtle fragrance,” Gangwani says.

While the jury’s still out on whether Covid is, indeed, an airborne disease, the air sanitiser segment has relevance, Gangwani feels, because the chances of infection are higher in closed spaces. “With things opening up and people moving out to visit one another, this might be an added reassuring, safety layer.”

Consumers, he says, are fatigued with sanitising surfaces, parcels, clothes, fruits, veggies, and themselves. “I wish there was one solution to fight all, instead of multiple products, I think this new category will appeal more to the paranoid mindset. Perhaps, air purifiers can also augment their offering with this additional benefit,” he muses, adding that air sanitisers have to contend with the aerosols that fight mosquitoes and flying insects too.

Sourabh Mishra

Brand consultant Sourabh Mishra (former planning Head at Bates, Saatchi, TBWA, among other agencies) thinks it makes a lot of sense to launch these products now. After all, the pandemic has created a new market and people need protection from the virus.

“This need for protection is an opportunity that brands are trying to tap into. The ‘sanitiser’ category will see good traction, even when (and if) the current pandemic is controlled. There is a deep-rooted fear and that will not go away anytime soon,” Mishra opines.

Though otherwise unrelated, categories like air conditioners, air purifiers, air fresheners and air sanitisers are now rivals, united by their objective – to kill viruses from the air in our homes. However, Mishra says that these segments are not comparable, because an AC with a built-in virus control air purifier is a high value purchase, versus a spray, which is an FMCG product in an entirely different price bracket.

He feels strong brands with existing equity will be easier to trust, say, a Eureka Forbes with a Corona guard product, versus a new water purifier brand that makes the same claim.

“As and when a trustworthy air sanitiser comes about, it will be added to the consumers’ repertoire of safety practices. The air sanitiser may not necessarily sanitise surfaces, vegetables and gadgets. So, consumers will have multiple safety practices, unless one very clearly is a replacement for another, in terms of efficacy,” Mishra concludes.

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