Reckitt is introducing Lysol Air Sanitizer, a first-of-its-kind air-care product that destroys bacteria and viruses while they're still in the air.
The company says it's the first and only antimicrobial product approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do so. The spray kills 99.9% of airborne viruses and bacteria, including cold, influenza and coronavirus.
It will be available in stores beginning in July.
The company has been working on the product for years, well before the pandemic outbreak, says Benoit Veryser, vice president of U.S. marketing for the Lysol brand. "When COVID-19 came -- an airborne pathogen -- we accelerated the timeline as much as we could."
One of the reasons it took so long, he says, is that it is relatively easy to prove how effective surface disinfectants are. "We can count the number of remaining germs using a microscope. Counting germs in the air a whole different endeavor. Having our protocol accepted by the EPA is exciting."
The product works by using hygroscopic molecules that break down the membranes of microorganisms, leading to their destruction.
Veryser says marketing won't dwell too deeply on the specifics of that molecular warfare ,nor mention much about COVID.
But the pandemic has changed how consumers think about germs and how the company communicates. "People are much more educated on a lot of things, and they've found ways to keep themselves safe with different products and solutions," he says. "We are able to address consumers in a much more scientific way."
COVID boosted Lysol's profile, at one point pushing it into the second-most trusted brand in the U.S. (Only Band-Aid ranked higher, and it edged out rival germ-killer Clorox, which ranked third.)
Lysol built on that trust, partnering with other brands, including Delta, Hilton and Major League Baseball.
Younger audiences became more interested. "Lysol used to have an 'older person' feeling to it," he tells Marketing Daily. "And the air sanitizer has more appeal for a younger audience because it's more about the fragrances and less about the harshness of the germ-killing. We try to keep things uplifting and light and humorous."
It comes in three scents: Simple Fresh, White Linen and Light Breeze.
McCann handles the introductory ad campaign, including TV, print, outdoor and social. The company also plans an experiential component, demonstrating its germ-killing prowess by partnering with festivals.
Such activations make sense since crowds continue to worry some people.
"I was in Italy working when COVID started, and one of the main reasons it spread so much in North Italy was traced back to a football game with a lot of shouting and screaming," Veryser says. "Events can be a hotbed of airborne pathogens."