Purell, Clorox, Kleenex benefit: Flu fear equals marketer bonanza

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The vaccine shortage couldn't have come at a better time for Kimberly-Clark Corp., with the news breaking just days after Kleenex Anti-Viral tissues hit store shelves and ads began running from WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, New York.

The patented three-ply tissue has a moisture-activated middle-layer treated with an anti-viral formula. When sneeze or cough residue hits the middle layer, it kills 99.9% of flu viruses in the tissue within 15 minutes, according to Kimberly-Clark.

But Kimberly-Clark, like Clorox Co. with its Disinfecting Wipes and Pfizer with its Purell Hand Sanitizer, isn't shifting its marketing for products expected to see feverish sales as everyone from doctors to news commentators urge hand-washing to ward off the flu.

Kleenex said it isn't making any changes to its $30 million marketing campaign for Anti-Viral, which was planned well before the vaccine news, and a spokesman was cautious about appearing to capitalize on the problem. "I don't know if it will help sales," he said. "The benefit of this tissue is that it does kill certain viruses that cause cold or flu."

free samples

Clorox, meanwhile, has been deluged with requests from employers for free samples of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes to use in their offices since the vaccine news broke, said a spokeswoman. The company has tried to fill as many requests as it can-up to 5,000 for one New York employer-but had to turn down a request for a million samples. Fortuitously, the brand launched a purse-size "To Go" version of the wipes this spring that it expects to be particularly popular, given rising flu fears.

Pfizer may not make flu vaccines, but it may benefit from the lack thereof following its acquisition earlier this month of global marketing rights for Purell hand sanitizer from GoJo Industries, pending regulatory approval.

"We have been seeing an impact on our Purell sales [due to the vaccine shortage] and we expect that to continue," said Sandy Katz, VP-marketing of GoJo. "It's similar to what we saw during the SARS outbreak last year."

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