Saturday, July 01, 2006

Flu Fear Focused Marketing --- Yea or nay?

Given the personal, financial, and economic consequences of a full-blown H5N1 pandemic, it may be surprising that bird flu worries have inspired so few business developments. Are the marketers of the world missing an opportunity? Or, do there exist intrinsic barriers to flu fear focused marketing?

Certainly if we set aside the anti-viral and vaccine manufacturers, we find a rather lackluster spectrum of flu-inspired business activities:
  • Manufacturers of N95 masks have increased production and added new distribution channels.
  • Manufacturers of HEPA filters and equipment have stepped up sales to hospitals and are broadening their base of industrial clients.
  • Suppliers to agribusinesses (especially in Europe) have directed incremental marketing efforts to the concerns of poultry producers.
  • Suppliers to the "Food for Storage" niche have stirred up a little extra business that goes beyond their traditional survivalists market.
Over all, this is a piddling level of development when contrasted with the many billions of dollars that are being spent by the world's governments. Can it be that governments are more precient than entrepreneurs, or, alternatively, can there be natural impediments to flu fear focused marketing?

My Favorite Bird Flu Profiteer: LYSOL

Of the major retail brands, the one that has most taken bird flu fear to heart is the old household standby Lysol. The search engine optimizer behind the Lysol Bird Flu website has done a marvelous job, and anyone who searches the flu-web will find it post-haste. The site is well done and provides useful consumer-level information.

If we do have a bird flu pandemic, Lysol deserves to be acknowledged as a genuine leader. Their efforts will definitely have saved lives. On the other hand, if the population of people worried about bird flu does not continue to grow, then Lysol will have simply packed the tail end of the supply chain. Consumers who are now loading with Lysol may not need to buy another bottle for years. If a pandemic does not arrive, Lysol could be in trouble.

This underscores the difficulty of "flu fear focused" marketing by the big brands. Unlike the manufactures of N95 masks, they are unlikely to reach genuinely new customers, and this severely limits the long-term profitability of a flu fear focused business plan.


Blogger gs said...

also, with increasing bird flu attention, people may figure out, that just alcohol or bleach is as good as Lysol. So Lysol's success depends a lot on advertisements and not fundamental demand.

5:16 AM  

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