Tis the season to be flu-ey
It’s started already. Schools are now in the mid-point of the winter term, and snuffly noses, sore throats, and assorted other ailments are all in full effect. Flu jabs are being taken to protect against the winter, and it’s only a matter of time before the usual Norovirus “Winter Vomiting Bug” lays waste to classrooms and offices around the UK – the stories are already starting to surface (even the All Blacks are currently suffering!)
A study conducted last year by Kimberley-Clark took swabs of commonly touched objects & surfaces (infographic available here) to show alarming levels of contamination on everything from petrol pump handles (71% high enough to have contamination that would lead to illness), escalators (43%), ATMs (41%) and even soap dispensers (25%). Some scary levels here, but at what point should we be concerned, and how does this help consumers?
Certainly the opportunity still exists around extending the brands into the out of home occasions and the ability to keep clean on the go. Regular users of public transport will no doubt be familiar with the sticky & greasy hands you can be left with after touching hand rails. With fewer public spaces holding facilities for hand washing, and even questionable cleanliness of the facilities themselves could be barriers that the hygiene brands can turn to an opportunity.
Coupled with the fundamental opportunity must also be balance between cleanliness being bad for immune systems – an interpretation that a certain level of dirt is good. One commenter posted “It’s good that they are, it boosts our immune systems.”
So a potential for a mildness message to work on two levels. Firstly that repeated use won’t be detrimental to skin health for the hands. Secondly that there are specific situations that could be more of a priority as the Kimberley-Clark research has shown.
Another angle to build differentiation can be a platform of “care for yourself, care for others”. In the immediate sphere this would be the closeness of family, which the majority of brands in the category communicate already as a linkage to home care in bathroom, floor & kitchen. As a new facet to that there is a broader level of care that isn’t as strong in Western Europe, whilst it’s certainly seen in Asia – greater care for your fellow travellers (or anyone out of home) to avoid giving someone else your illness.
Cleaning brands can look to expand further, and bring new opportunities for growth potentially across markets. The one key characteristic of viruses is that they change easily from year-to-year so this winter, much like the winters before and those to come will mean catching a cold is never too far away.
Jon Weeks Director in Ipsos Marketing. Follow me on Twitter: @weeks_jon