Sunit Roy

What's Dettol got to do with fighting air pollution?

A lot - RB is advertising its new Dettol SiTiSHIELD masks. Short-term, opportunistic product diversification? Or a viable long-term business?

The rapid decline in India’s air quality has hit a new low. The Air Quality Index (AQI) hit 999 (the maximum a monitor can record) at some places in Delhi - NCR a day after Diwali. An AQI of 50 is healthy and anything above 100 is considered unhealthy.

What's Dettol got to do with fighting air pollution?

Dettol SiTiSHIELD Air Pollution Mask campaign

To combat the issue, anti-pollution mask brands - such as Honeywell, 3M, Vogmask, Oxypure, Atlanta Healthcare Cambridge, Respro Techno, and Totobobo - are available in the market. These are sold at health clinics/hospitals and over the counter at pharmacy stores. Reckitt Benckiser (RB) too introduced Dettol SiTiSHIELD, an anti-pollution mask in the category.

What's Dettol got to do with fighting air pollution?

Another film released as part of Dettol #ShieldYourLungs campaign

Recently, the brand launched its ‘#ShieldYourLungs’ campaign to promote its Cambridge N99 (military grade) and N95 masks. The brand has also been driving campaigns to promote ‘Swachh Hawa’ as part of its flagship initiative - Dettol Harpic Banega Swachh India. It focuses on the use of a protective measure against air pollution, shielding lungs from the harmful and adverse effects that accompany air pollution.

What's Dettol got to do with fighting air pollution?

Khattarnaak Air Pollution: An on-ground activation done by Dettol SiTiSHIELD with Sahil Khattar

“Very few people know that air pollution can reduce breathing efficiency by half a lung. Nine out of 10 people in India are affected by air pollution. Hence, with Dettol ‘#ShieldYourLungs’ campaign we aim to create awareness around the hazardous effects of air pollution on lungs and how wearing a mask can protect one’s health,” says Pankaj Duhan, chief marketing officer, RB South Asia Health.

What's Dettol got to do with fighting air pollution?

Pankaj Duhan

What's Dettol got to do with fighting air pollution?

Sahil Trehan

The ads films were conceptualised by Autumn Worldwide and produced by Momomoto Studios. The campaign has been brought to life on digital, print, radio, OOH, and on-ground in stores. Two films were released and at least 8+ creatives are live across touchpoints. The brand also released a humorous video with Sahil Khattar (online influencer), informing Delhi’s population of the existing AQI levels.

Sahil Trehan, vice president, Autumn Worldwide, says, “The challenge in this category is that people perceive air pollution as an environmental concern only and the solutions discussed are long-term, e.g. planting more trees, reducing the number of cars on the road, etc. While protecting the environment is important, it is also critical to act on the adverse effect of toxicity on health. The insight driving this campaign is the people’s acknowledgment of air pollution, yet there is no urgency in finding immediate protection against it. Hence, the idea was to communicate in a hard-hitting manner, so that it can drive action or at least influence people to consider anti-pollution masks.”

Building a category conversation

Exposure to air pollution has negative health consequences at every stage of life - from the womb to old age. There are both short-term as well as long-term effects. Hence, personal protection becomes a priority for individuals, especially against toxic air.

The air pollution mask market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 18 per cent by 2023, owing to the growing health concerns due to deteriorating air quality in the country, especially across the urban areas. Increasing emission of pollutants due to surge in industrial activity, stubble burning and expanding vehicle fleets are some of the other factors that are expected to boost the sales of anti-pollution masks in the country over the next five years. Moreover, increasing per capita expenditure on healthcare and safety products, rising consumer awareness regarding respiratory disease and benefits of anti-pollution products are anticipated to fuel demand for pollution masks in India in the coming years.

“Unfortunately, consumers still pick any mask sold at retail stores - cloth masks, surgical masks and even basic ones that do not really protect them from PM 2.5 pollutants. Hence, we are doing our bit to educate and promote the use of N95 and N99 masks,” says Duhan.

Currently, the brand offers a range of options - Dettol SiTiSHIELD Cambridge N99 military grade masks with its 3-layer filtration (the brand claims it gives 99 per cent filtration from PM 2.5 bacteria and viruses). It is washable and available in four designs/colours and sizes, to suit people of different ages. Then there’s the Dettol SiTi SHIELD N95 mask (claims to give 98 per cent filtration from PM 2.5) that is available across price points starting from rs. 99 (disposable), rs. 249 and rs. 799 and the Dettol SiTiSHIELD Cambridge mask and Protect+ Smart mask (these feature a valve to provide a seamless flow while breathing).

“Northern India, specifically Delhi-NCR, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana are big markets for air pollution masks due to stubble burning in and around these geographies. And Dettol SiTiSHIELD is one of the mainstream brands especially in this segment,” Duhan informs.

Before the campaign was rolled out, in-depth analysis of social conversations, search trends, pollution and mask related conversations were conducted. Post research, the two major TGs that the brand wanted to engage were the ‘commuter’ - who is exposed to polluted air every day while travelling in a Metro train/bus/car, and ‘school-going kids’ - who are most vulnerable to respiratory ailments.

Under the ‘#ShieldYourLungs’ campaign, the brand drove conversations with three radio channels with RJ’s and experts talking to people on-ground about air pollution in the most crowded places of Delhi. Further, the brand also tied up with Uber and Lybrate to install air pollution measuring devices for real-time updates and is driving Twitter trend conversations around AQI.

Cashing-in on the 'Be-first' strategy?

For the first time, a brand is advertising for an anti-pollution mask. We asked the experts if Dettol SiTiSHIELD will challenge the rival brands through this piece of communication and succeed in becoming a category leader.

According to Ronita Mitra, founder and chief strategist at Brand Eagle Consulting, advertising for such a category and product at the right price point, can yield very positive results and catapult the category from niche to mainstream. She says, "Dettol is a very trusted name with a brand promise of protection. The product also appears to be technically superior and the apt messaging for it is differentiation that is direct and compelling."

What's Dettol got to do with fighting air pollution?

Ronita Mitra

What's Dettol got to do with fighting air pollution?

Sharda Agarwal

What's Dettol got to do with fighting air pollution?

Shubhomoy Sengupta

Mitra, however, maintains, "Messaging aside, I would think the brand would need to leverage many more touchpoints for quick adoption which will, in turn, break taboos associated with masks."

Sharda Agarwal, co-founder -, a healthcare advisory, says, "This looks like an opportunistic diversification riding on increasing pollution in metros. However, this phenomenon is restricted to big metros such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, despite abysmal air quality coming in from other parts of India. And even within the metros, Delhi is the only city where you see people visibly sick taking measures to wear masks. Hence, I am not sure whether this will build into a viable business for Dettol. We're not like China where pollution and smog are so widespread that wearing masks is de rigueur."

Agarwal feels that pricing and distribution will be critical. She says, "People today may do with disposable hospital masks - functional but unbranded. That's where the bulk of the market is. Dettol will have to build the category with sustained spends before brand preference can be established."

Shubhomoy Sengupta, digital marketer and co-founder of Pink Shastra, an e-commerce portal, says, "In an under-developed market one has to create a lot of awareness - not just about the product but the category too. Why atmospheric pollution is such a deadly thing, people don't know. One or two ad films will not solve the problem. Mass programmes have to be organised at schools/colleges/offices etc."

He adds, "The category does not exist. People do not accept that there is a problem. How do you sell the solution to a group of people who do not see the problem? It's too early to say whether a brand will be able to survive this or not. So, to create a market, a brand has to get influencers/celebrities to motivate people."

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