The COVID-19 pandemic has been inconvenient for many, devastating for some, and a source of constant worry for most of us. Many businesses are faltering; some have launched GoFundMe campaigns to stay afloat. (Support your local bookstore!)
But for a handful of brands, the coronavirus crisis has brought heightened visibility and surging sales. Over the next week or so, I’m going to tell the stories of some of those brands.
First up: Lysol, the disinfectant brand developed in Germany in the 1880s and manufactured in the US since 1912. In March, sales of aerosol disinfectants like Lysol and its chief competitor, Clorox, “jumped 343% and multipurpose cleaners 166% from a year ago, according to research firm Nielsen,” USA Today reported on April 9:
“Nobody ever expected this to happen, and they got caught flatfooted,” says Patrick Penfield, professor of supply chain practice at Syracuse University. “They don’t have enough ingredients. They don’t have enough capacity.”
Out of stock at walgreens.com. Out of stock on the store shelves, too, last time I checked.
And Forbes reported in early March: “General awareness of Lysol products is also trending up in the U.S., both among the general population and especially among those with virus concerns, with 87% of that group aware of the Lysol brand compared to 79% at the beginning of February.”
Lysol claims that several of its products are effect against coronaviruses like COVID-19 on hard surfaces.
I wrote in 2013 about a Lysol ad campaign that turned “health” into a verb (“Cleaning is hoping you’re killing germs. Healthing is knowing it”). The Lysol name, I wrote, “probably gets its -sol from cresol”—a coal-tar derivative—“and its Ly- from lysis, ‘loosening’ or ‘dissolution.’” Although today the brand is associated with health, there are some dark shadows in Lysol’s history: In 1911, drinking Lysol was the most common means of suicide in Australia; and for years Lysol was advertised (by innuendo) as a contraceptive douche (that wasn’t effective).
For more about Lysol—including some vintage ads—see my 2013 post.
Coming soon in Corona Brands: Zoom, Purell, and Steak-umm.