When anti-viral goes viral

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on July 13, 2020

Pandemic-proof products are proliferating, mostly riding on fear marketing

From dawn to dusk, there is an ‘anti viral’ product keeping you company. For good measure, many are vocal about local too. The pandemic, and more recently China, has taken up the mind space of consumers, so much so that manufacturers are unleashing products to allay Corona anxiety and stress on their Indian origin. Or they are tweaking the messaging around existing products to fit the Corona narrative.

The minute you wake up you can reach out for your immunity-boosting tea. Where earlier you would hear rapturous paeans to first-flush Darjeeling or full-bodied Assam, now the push messages are on the benefits of Ashwagandha, ginger and turmeric.

The ‘ImmuniTea’ blend has become the bestselling brew for many a brand. Start-up Chaayos was quick to launch a whole range of immunity-boosting blends during the pandemic.

Next up, roll out the yoga mat and your favourite instructor has got immunity boosting Yogasana videos lined up for you with the pranayama repackaged as Corona fighter exercises. Ditto with meditation — all the mind power is now focused around conquering the virus.

Globally, meditation app Headspace has reported a spike in usage post pandemic and also a new trend of people virtually meditating in groups. Rival app Ten Percent Happier has released a coronovirus sanity guide! Closer home, switch on the TV set and you have Brahma Kumari Shivani guiding you through a meditation session to remain “emotionally protected from Coronavirus”.

Soap makers and hand sanitiser producers were, of course, the first to jump on to the ‘Fight Covid’ bandwagon with Dettol and Lifebuoy taking an early lead with their messaging.

Interestingly, Medimix, the southern brand that was once upon a time sold as a prescription-based product has, without much marketing, witnessed a surge in demand — the brand name apparently being the magic pull factor!

Move into the kitchen and all kinds of new vegetable and fruit washes — from organic to herbal — are now available to take the germs off the greens. CavinKare has launched even a meat wash — its SaaFoo Wash comes in sachets too. There is no dearth of packaged immunity-boosting food products in the market, with Patanjali leading the pack in lining your shelves. Why, there is even Immuno-bread from Modern Bread. Since your home is your cocoon now, white goods manufacturers are nudging you to buy air purifiers that claim to trap the Corona virus within their filtration systems. Home disinfection kits are up next.

The apparel you wear, the towels you use, the bedsheets you sleep on, the rugs and carpets on your floor will all soon be in anti-viral fabric with HealthGuard AMIC technology. From Raymond to Vardhman to Siyaram to Welspun, textile manufacturers are betting big on anti viral, anti-microbial and anti-fungal fibre.

One manufacturer, Arihant, claimed its mattress was Coronavirus-resistant. Of course, the Advertising Standards Council of India came down on it like a ton of bricks. In fact, during the pandemic, the ASCI team has picked over 400 plus Covid cure or prevention claiming advertisements and notified advertisers to withdraw them.

ASCI has stepped up surveillance and is constantly monitoring websites and social media pages to pick up such claims. In April, the Ministry of AYUSH sought ASCI's help about such ads.




Sanjay Sarma, founder of SSarma Consults, a boutique branding and communication advisory, calls out this trend. “The anti-corona product proliferation is an opportunistic and unregulated sector that is thriving on fear marketing and the ‘vocal for local’ clarion call,” he says.

It’s a short-term phenomenon at best, feels Sarma. “Since entry barriers are low, it is easy to get in and get out of business for fly-by-night operators. And for bigger companies and brands, it is a short-term strategic pivot for survival during tough economic conditions.”

For lockdown brands that are using Covid as a clutch, the future isn’t too bright, forecasts Sarma.

That may be so, but anti viral is certainly a viral trend now!

Published on July 09, 2020

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