More than a year into the global pandemic, germaphobes have become normalized. While the chances of contracting the coronavirus from a surface are quite low – transmission is typically airborne – many consumers still feel safer by continually cleaning their homes and wiping down everything they bring inside, including groceries, deliveries, and mail.
The cleanliness obsession has fueled a surge in sales for major cleaning product manufacturers such as Lysol and Clorox; in fact, Lysol recently posted record-breaking annual sales thanks to the pandemic. Marketing teams have also seized the opportunity to address consumers’ concerns about the outbreak. Lysol, for example, which has always stressed that it kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, has made sure to push out the messaging that it’s EPA-approved to protect against the coronavirus.
Lysol and other cleaning companies have deliberately taken on the role of educator amidst the pandemic. S.C. Johnson, for example, which makes stain remover Shout and bathroom cleaner Scrubbing Bubbles, decided to team with Sesame Street’s Elmo to produce a series of videos about hygiene. And in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic and CDC Foundation, Clorox has launched the Safer Today Alliance, which aims to offer guidance on health and safety as shoppers return to public places.
According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, US consumers consistently increased their online purchases of cleaning products throughout 2020, rising from 22% in the first quarter to 35% by the end of the year, representing growth of over 50% during the 12-month period. However, as vaccines continue to be distributed and life slowly returns to normal, there is some concern at major cleaning corporations about whether the sales momentum can be sustained.
A year ago, during a call with analysts, Jon Moeller, Procter & Gamble’s COO and CFO, commented that consumer behavior and attitudes toward cleaning products and hygiene was “forever altered.” More recently, Clorox CEO Linda Rendle told CNBC, “People are adopting cleaning as more of a thing around safety and wellness, not just a chore.” Time (and balance sheets) will tell us if they’re right.