As fears of swine flu spread, companies ranging from soap and hand-sanitizer manufacturers to makers of designer face masks are ramping up their marketing efforts, mostly pitching prevention messages starring their products, says a WSJ report.
Dial, a unit of the German consumer-goods company Henkel, is stepping up its advertising for Dial Complete foaming hand wash, rapidly assembling a push that includes national print and online ads and in-store displays. “We want to make sure that people understand that effective hand washing is the best way to keep yourself and your family healthy. We also want them to know that not all hand soaps are created equal,” says Scott Moffitt, senior vice president and general manager of Henkel’s personal-care business. Johnson & Johnson, which makes Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer, is updating its Purell.com Web site and evaluating how best to offer hygiene information to the public. Lysol, owned by Reckitt Benckiser, is increasing production of its disinfectant spray to meet an uptick in demand and mounting a public-relations push to educate consumers about protecting their families from germs.
Dial is ramping up advertising for its Dial Complete foaming hand wash.
HandClens, an upstart hand sanitizer made by Woodward Laboratories, of Aliso Viejo, Calif., says it is more than doubling its ad budget and promotional efforts and distributing its “ABC: Always Be Clean” hand-hygiene teaching program to school districts across the country.
The soap makers — whose ads don’t explicitly mention swine flu, but focus more broadly on germ-fighting — already have a key endorsement. Frequent hand-washing tops the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of advice for preventing the spread of swine flu.
They also are getting a big boost from the media. TV news anchors are showing off their jumbo bottles of hand sanitizers on air. And public arenas, like the AT&T Center in San Antonio, are setting up hand-sanitizer stations.
But the marketers have to walk a fine line as they hawk their products during a public-health emergency.
Trying to capitalize on the nation’s fear is “quite a sleazy course of conduct,” Dean Crutchfield, an independent branding consultant, told the paper. He says instead of increasing their ad budgets, marketers should be donating resources to schools and hospitals and creating an aura of goodwill around their brands. “This is the time when you show who you really are,” he says.
Dial says it is trying to be sensitive in its advertising and find the right balance between educating people about illness prevention and advocating its product.
Moffitt notes that Dial’s ads will direct consumers to its Web site, where they can receive a discount coupon, and that his team is putting together donation efforts, such as contacting airports that get a lot of flights from Mexico, a swine-flu hot spot, to offer free products.
Woodward Laboratories says it is offering specials on its products and is giving away free dispensers to schools.
Several online retailers have started marketing swine-flu-related goods via search ads. Global Autoclave Compliance has started selling a “Swine Flu Protection Kit” for $19, which includes masks, gloves and sanitizers.
Argenus Air Sterilizer, part of Hunter Fan, is marketing its air purifier in search ads with the headline “Kill Deadly Viruses Like Swine Flu.” Safety Videos Now is selling a “Swine Flu Safety” DVD for $47.
New York ad agency Digo, formerly DiMassimo Goldstein, is producing a first run of 25,000 designer face masks that it plans to sell on its Web site for $100 each. The masks feature six designs, including a crossed-out pig snout, the slogan “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” a mustache and bright-red lips.
“Masks have become icons of fear,” says Mark DiMassimo, Digo’s chief executive, who says he plans to donate all the profits to charity. “Why couldn’t they become canvases for other kinds of self-expression that are more brave and more defiant and more creative, really?”