Germ kill: the new war cry for brands

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on June 04, 2020 Published on June 03, 2020

India's war on germs moves to zero-tolerance policy towards germs



Germs have turned out to be consumers' 'enemy number one', all thanks to Covid. As consumers gingerly step into life after lockdown, the paranoia is only going to increase. Given the blanket intolerance for germs catching on, new research suggests the next breakthrough for many a brand category could come from cracking the right germ-kill or anti-bacteria formulation or narrative.

Google Trends has already captured this interest in germs and germ-kill. Searches around 'bacteria kill' in India grew by over 3X in February-March 2020, while 'antiseptic' as a search term showed the highest spike in March 2020 as compared to results over the last 12 months.

Market research agency Kantar's Covid-19 Barometer study in April also corroborated this when it stated that personal cleaning products such as soaps, handwashes, sanitisers had a 56 per cent net increase in purchases. Products like antiseptic liquids, anti-bacterial liquids and wipes had a 51 per cent net increase in purchases.

What started out as a localised war on germs, largely restricted to sanitisers, anti-bacterial soaps, handwashes, toilet or floor cleaners, has inexorably moved to a blanket zero-tolerance policy towards germs.

Zydus Wellness sensed the need for expert germ care and advanced its sanitiser launch. Tarun Arora, CEO, Zydus Wellness has said brands offering germ-kill and hygiene will continue to be relevant even after Covid-19 is gone.

As the concern for health and safety grows, consumers are increasingly looking at trusted brands for solutions. Zydus Wellness' consumer work had shown that prickly heat powder brand Nycil was a good fit within this space and hence, the company advanced its plans to launch its sanitiser by a year.

Marico also has launched its fruit and vegetable-cleaning product 'Veggie Clean', to remove germs, bacteria and other contaminants.

Highlighting the growing trend - the war on germs - a new report by Wunderman Thompson South Asia has revealed that consumers will now look at lift buttons and elevators and start seeing germs; sit in shared taxis and wonder who sat there before; continue to keep groceries and veggies in the sun longer, hoping that will kill the germs.

The overarching need to seek out products that destroy the germs inside the house and those that could have been collected on the way back to the house, after an errand, is what marketers need to pay heed to.

The team at Wunderman Thompson (WT) South Asia conducted a lockdown study among Indian households in 32 cities in 15 states, on the effects of the pandemic and the resulting effect on the health, pharma and wellness categories.

Tarun Rai, Chairman and Group CEO, Wunderman Thompson, South Asia, said, "Covid-19 will have a much deeper impact on not just the economy but also on society. There is an urgent need, therefore, to rethink, relook at emerging data, and reload for the future."

With the pandemic making structural changes in mindsets and marketplaces, alike, Ajeeta Bharadwaj, National Planning Director, Wunderman Thompson India said, "It is changing the hierarchy of benefits and crash-coursing the education of certain categories; it is forcing a rethink on the way things are made, stacked and served and digitising behaviours at a scale that would have been hard to imagine."

The WT lockdown study threw up some interesting findings: in spite of the general rhetoric on how all soaps are equally effective against Covid-19, 88 per cent people said they felt safer using handwashes or soaps with known anti-bacterial or germ-kill benefits.

Almost 63 per cent said they would consider paying a premium for home cleaners / toilet cleaners / detergents or fabric softeners that have 99.9 per cent germ-kill, over other good brands.

Of those surveyed, 55 per cent said they would consider paying a premium for soaps, body washes, and handwashes of brands that have germ-kill or anti-bacterial properties, over other good brands.

With an increased threat to health, consumers are veering towards hard, clinical claims over softer narratives, states the research. While Google India searches in March, too, showed a sharp spike in the specific search: alcohol sanitisers, the trend is in line with findings from other markets.

Market research firm Euromonitor noted disposable wipes in portable formats with 75 per cent alcohol and virus kill are in urgent demand in China. With these in short supply, consumers are turning to personal wipes positioned with germ-killing and anti-bacterial functionalities.

Wechat Kantar Data showed that 76 per cent of Chinese respondents will continue to pay attention to the bacteria-killing feature of personal care and household cleaning products even after the pandemic.

The move to hard health is set to make performance and efficacy the hero, states the research. Consumers are bound to look for products that work faster, give better relief, have a stronger formulation and carry a more real reassurance.

The move to authentic products with hard health claims also has the power to create a new generation of challenger brands, adds the research, that can change established category dynamics with a 'cut the fluff and let the product talk' era.

Published on June 03, 2020
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