When the Corona virus started spreading, the demand for different types of sanitisers shot up. First, people needed sanitisers to kill germs on their hands and supplement healthy handwashing practices. Then came the need for surface disinfectants to ensure that parcels, door handles and other commonly touched surfaces are rid of germs. To ensure that the fruits and vegetables one eats are germ-free, Marico and ITC (among other brands) introduced produce wash.
Another introduction to the customer’s ‘germ-killing’ arsenal is laundry detergent. We first spotted a variant of the product by Dettol on Amazon, and subsequently found an ad for the same by rival brand Lifebuoy.
Rajesh Gangwani, a branding and communication consultant, recollects that when his children were born, nappies were always washed in a capful of Dettol disinfectant liquid. Moreover, washing with detergent and disinfecting with Dettol or Savlon were normally seen as two separate processes.
“The connotation at the time was that you’re giving added protection. This is similar to most products today making a claim that they give you added immunity, since there’s a strong need to take care of yourself and protect yourself from the inside,” he says.
The former adman (with over 27 years experience in the industry, working with J Walter Thompson) adds that most consumers accept that they don’t have much control over what is happening outside, but the most they can do is disinfect inside the home. He likens the introduction of laundry sanitiser to the introduction of produce washes earlier this year, and calls it a ‘smart move’.
“We’ve never needed a fruit and vegetable wash all these years. We used to use solutions like potassium permanganate to make sure that the vegetables were disinfected, but now major brands like ITC and Marico have introduced produce washes and people prefer to use those,” he explains.
Gangwani also adds that the introduction of such products are symptomatic of the ways in which a consumer feels they can take additional care of themselves.
However, the products available to help a consumer do their laundry are many and nuanced. There are fabric softeners, starches, fabric care liquids, stain removers, and so on. Will consumers be open to opting for another step in this process?
“People today are so conscious of what they’re doing that if I were to add one more step in the laundry process and claim that this kills germs, then consumers might actually consider this option as they are unsure of where the virus is, how long it survives on surfaces, like fabrics, and so on,” says Gangwani.
He calls it an interesting category that has come up since there is a fear in consumers’ minds and paranoia is at an all-time high. “This is a product that caters to a fear lurking in many consumers’ minds. They’re not sure where the virus could be. This reinforces a certain fear psychosis. Advertising has always been relevant to the times, and tried to prey on customers’ insecurities.”
Gangwani also finds it interesting that this is a product meant to be used on clothes after washing – in a bucket. “This means that consumers who wash clothes on a machine might be out of the brand’s purview but what works for this brand is Lifebuoy’s equity in the germ killing space. It would’ve been seen as opportunistic if any other brand had done it, but because Lifebuoy has credibility in the germ killing space, this move makes sense. It’s a natural extension that’s relevant for the times,” he concludes.