• Priyanka Agarwal

#SwipeFiles: How to promote your cleaning brand without giving us OCD

Updated: Apr 15

5 content-marketing and copywriting tips for cleaning, sanitising, and disinfecting products, minus any fear-mongering

Cleaning and sanitation should be a round-the-year thing, not limited to pandemics.
Cleaning and sanitation should be round-the-year rituals, not limited to pandemics.

Image: Karolina Grabowska | Pexels


In the backdrop of the sudden inexplicable spike in Covid-19 cases in Mumbai (think 3,000+ positive detections on Friday), my phone beeped a notification.


I clicked on the link, and an advertorial in a popular magazine loaded before my eyes.


The write-up was a promotion for a bestselling disinfectant spray, complete with a celebrity endorsement, explaining how it needs to be used on every possible corner of our homes.


What concerned me about the ad was the combination of its timing and messaging. I’m sure the brand’s intentions were noble, but the part of me struggling with anxiety and a little bit of OCD interpreted it as an implication that cleanliness needs to be practised exclusively and even more aggressively at this time of our lives, i.e. the pandemic. Whereas we all know, deep down, that it should be a consistent, regular affair, regardless of the health situation around.


Besides, there’s increasing consensus among medical experts that surfaces have little or no role to play in the spread of Covid-19. Apart from adding to the confusion, wouldn’t an excessive obsession with cleaning and disinfecting surfaces take the focus off more important measures such as wearing masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, and vaccinating?


The advert, thus, got me thinking about what makes for responsible and sensitive content when it comes to cleaning, sanitising, and disinfecting products. Based on some research and reflection, here are my 5 tips that can help you clean up your copy:


Focus on general cleanliness and hygiene

Talk about how your product aids all-round cleanliness and sanitation, without giving the spotlight to any particular pathogen. Agreed, the coronavirus is dangerous and contagious, but the likes of bacteria or E. coli are just as bad if not worse.


If you target your product’s efficacy against only a specific pathogen like the coronavirus, especially by animating it to life on the screen, you may end up contributing a lot of unnecessary paranoia around it in the process.


Advertise your product all year round

The key is consistent communication. It would be imprudent on the part of the advertiser to intensify promotions or roll out or announce a new product when there’s a sudden spike in positive cases. Else, they risk being seen as an opportunist waiting to make a killing out of a pandemic of all things.


Refrain from making unverified claims

Soaps are more than enough protection against germs.
Soaps are effective protection against germs.

Image: Aurélia Dubois | Unsplash


While highlighting your brand’s efficacy against the various kinds of germs, ensure these claims are proven, backed, and certified by a valid authority. Else, just stick to mentioning their usual benefits, please.


Soaps are anyway effective against germs in general, so there’s no need to accord them with special superpowers. For sure, a “fruit and vegetable cleaner” is a futile invention when experts say water and high-temperature cooking are more than enough.


Calling your product “immunity-boosting” is a big no-no. And I’d rather listen to the opinion of a reputed medical authority than the endorsement of a celebrity with questionable knowledge on these matters.


Stay updated with current research

Studies on diseases, medicines, and pathogens are ongoing, digging up something new every day. Ensure you keep abreast of these developments by reading articles, papers, and journals penned by medical experts. Apart from updates by WHO, The Lancet is one such resource. You don’t want to stay mired in the obsolete information of, say, early 2020.


In the case of promotional blog posts and online articles, you may need to update your old content, if possible, or simply mention that this is dated stuff possibly irrelevant in the light of current knowledge.


Try to provide links and references to some of these medical resources within your content copy to make it more credible. And before you think of depicting or describing a vegetable vendor sneezing or coughing on their bounty in your ad, ensure you find out whether infections even happen or spread like that in the first place.


Keep it simple and steer clear of dramatics

Stick to showing the basic, essential benefits of your cleaning or disinfecting product in a creative, engaging manner without going overboard. Spraying disinfectant on the packaging of that online order or even on one’s hands, when you can wash your hands with soap and water after discarding the packaging material, is too much.


Besides, I’m sure you know very well that disinfectants can be harmful if accidentally ingested and even the best of soaps can irritate the skin. You need to be mindful of all these factors while creating your campaigns and content plans.


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