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Why hygiene is the new Viagra

Shivaji Dasgupta, Managing Director, Inexgro Brand Advisory, writes how hygiene alliances could be the new normal

Most recently, I was charmed by the alliance between Oyo and Unilever, where the timelessly tested brands of the latter were vetting the startup rooms of the former. As a student and observer, I became most curious as surely this was a colossal mismatch, the Anglo Dutch behemoth way more formidable than the Softbank progeny. But then I soon realised that in these unholy times, affiliations need to be realistic and effective and the framework for business opportunities.

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This does lead me to the hygiene dichotomy, a scenario where most suddenly the points of parity become even more important than the points of difference. An influential Guru Kevin Lane Keller is the originator of this thinking where he originally suggested that differentiation is irrelevant unless delivered by hygiene criteria. A silly but evocative illustration is the case of an airline which serves Michelin food but is always late, the brilliance negated by the failures. What we see now is an enhancement of this thinking where hygiene, most literally, is the foundation for differentiation and indeed an enabler; this is the abiding legacy of the corona era and nobody can dare to be suitably immune.

So now it seems that every experiential brand is dependent on a demonstration of infection-less and not infectious values and that is the great volte face of this era. The biryani may be Cordon Bleu, pardon the oxymoron, but unless the delivery is contactless customer affinity is suspicious. The founder may have curated a phenomenal co-working space but if a shred of the virus hung on to the tapestry the value would be demolished. When a parlour or an airline compromises on the debilitating PPE paraphernalia, its well-earned equity is rendered null and void. Even a hospital, the epitome of trusted allegiance, seems to be an amplifier of demise unless visibly and assuredly protected by the agents of impermanence. Thus most remarkably, the basics have taken over the secret sauce, in ways that we could never quite imagine.

What I thus predict is the emergence of ‘Paranoia Segmentation’, customers separated by their relative obsession for defensible safety. Those who are reckless cavaliers may well be termed the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, oblivious to the penetrating peril all around. They are sceptical about masks and believe that the touch and kill story is pure hogwash, choosing their product affiliations accordingly. While the significant majority can be defined as ‘Golmaal hai bhai sab Golmaal hai’, those who suspect the insidious presence of the invisible killer in every act of termination, just as the establishment views the ISI. In the latter lie the opportunities for hygiene alliances, a co-branding initiative that defies the logic of conventional branding but defines the survival instincts of unconventional times. The illustrations can be many but I will attempt an illustrative few.

Taj Hotels in cahoots with RB — Harpic ensuring the sanctity of toilets, Dettol assuring the longevity of palms and the sundry home embellishments assuring a reasonably sanitised environment. Airlines need not be left behind as they emulate this regime and every restaurant as a logical extension will need to think harder. We Work needs to pair with defensive fellows and may well consider Scotch Brite and not just Scotch Whisky as lovable allies, the ghostly peril demolished by side actors. If you are a grocery aggregator, the Savlon eliminator must become a stated chum, vegetables made safer while allegedly not less nutritious. This can interestingly lead to a service dimension as well, the SCP (Savlon Certified Professional) becoming as influential as the Microsoft-driven MCP, a feature we know so well. Radio cabs will join the party as will the party itself as it is indeed a matter of time before liquor and music earn their protective coatings. Quite like garments already attempted and possibly like real estate produce, surely a notable evolution.

So this will finally lead to Experience Alliances becoming the core brand promises, an idea I had propagated in 2017 on this platform. We have long ceased to consume products as solo actors, instead viewing them as orchestratic ensembles and this difference must be noted. An evening on the terrace includes the whisky, chips and the barbeque kit and we must not view them as separate. Just as a holiday is an amalgamation of attire, airlines, hotels, cuisine, shopping and safety, and these too cannot be viewed in isolation. I predict most fervently that hygiene alliances will actually become hygiene in most if not every experience and the allure will no longer be a solo brand persuasion.

Most happily, this is great for business not just as sales but indeed as promotions. If alliances stimulate the marketing efforts then they must feature in communication as well breaking traditional hierarchies and everybody will benefit. Everything that has transpired in these trying times is not necessarily evil and the hygiene alliance must be an inspirational aberration.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BestMediaInfo.com and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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