The coronavirus has shined a spotlight on heretofore unheralded people and things. Cleaning and transport staff, fast-food and supermarket workers now are essential employees. Finally. Also essential are healthcare workers, some of whom have ascended to heroic heights. Then there is the sudden fame of quotidian goods like toilet paper, soap, rubber gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and their close cousins disinfecting wipes.
One of the delights about reporting on PR and marketing is that every brand, company or industry is fair game. Today the unlikely subject is the earlier mentioned disinfecting wipe.
A Distant Memory
Surely you remember disinfecting wipes. They used to sit on pharmacy and grocery store shelves. Pre-coronavirus, disinfecting wipes was an unassuming product, relegated to assist in the ignominious task of cleaning bathroom surfaces. Now the lowly disinfecting wipe is a veritable and versatile superstar. And true to its superstardom, a sighting of disinfecting wipes on store shelves has become an event.
What? Beyoncé's at the Starbucks? Who cares? Target just got a shipment of disinfecting wipes!
Wipes Go Big Time...If You Can Find Them
The recent absence of wipes from shelves is so conspicuous, the phenomenon even rated an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.
Demand has been so strong during the pandemic–two times higher than normal to be exact–that within 30-45 minutes of appearing on store shelves “they’re gone,” Clorox finance chief Kevin Jacobsen tells the Journal. Simply put, disinfecting wipe leaders Clorox and Lysol are unable to meet demand.
Overall, sales of disinfectants have risen five-fold during the pandemic, the newspaper says. Fortunately, most disinfectant products remain readily available. And while not on shelves everywhere, another coronavirus celebrity, toilet paper, is reappearing in select stores. Similarly, hand sanitizer is returning after earlier sell-outs.
Not so for disinfecting wipes. Sales in the US of wipes were up 146 percent for the eight weeks ending March 25, vs the same period last year, Nielsen says. And while companies, such as Tito’s Handmade Vodka, have retooled to manufacture hand sanitizer, it’s not as easy to produce disinfecting wipes.
The PR Angle
You reading about the shortage of wipes makes at prnewsonline.com because Clorox.com and Lysol.com are communicating well about why their wipes have disappeared suddenly.
In its FAQ section, Lysol’s statement is direct, even apologetic. It begins, “Given the rapid spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the US, our top priority at this time is increasing our production to help curb the spread of illness.”
Holy cow, Batman, a COVID-19 statement that begins without repeating the obvious, ie, that the safety of our employees is our top priority. Employee safety should always be a company’s top priority.
And then, “We are experiencing unprecedented and accelerated demand for our Lysol products, and this demand is clearly having an impact on store inventory levels. Our teams are actively working around the clock to increase production and delivery to our retailers, with the goal to maximize access to our products.”
An excellent statement, despite use of the word “actively.” Could Lysol's teams work inactively? As we said, a tiny miscue. We won't deduct points.
Last, “As demand remains extraordinarily high, we recognize that it is difficult to locate products that you may be looking for. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your patience and understanding.”
How refreshing. A brand apologizing for not appearing on shelves.
Clorox.com’s FAQ section, too, deserves plaudits. Similarly, it addresses the absence of some products from shelves.
“We have stepped up production of our disinfecting products in response to unprecedented demand. It's hard to say exactly when specific retailers will have product in stock; it will vary from day to day, store to store and region to region. We are working around the clock to make sure as many people as possible have access to our disinfecting products.” A very good, concise but informative statement.
And an Apology
Clorox.com ends with advocacy. “We ask consumers to do their part by buying only what they need. In times like these we all have to work together.”
It apologizes, though, for removing the store locator from its site.
"We apologize for the inconvenience removing our store locator has caused, we realized it was no longer providing accurate information. Our priority right now – and the best way to address this at the moment – is removing the locator until the issue can be fixed. We are continuing to work with our retail partners to replenish store shelves as fast as possible."
We also liked Clorox.com's highly informative site, including info on the 5 germiest spots in your house.
Incidentally, more kudos to both brands. Before entering their sites, users see a message about the safe use of disinfectants, specifically that they should not be ingested. Well done.
You could say Lysol and Clorox prove that authentic, transparent communication is the best disinfectant.
This article is part of PRNEWS' ongoing daily COVID-19 coverage