Antiseptics & Disinfectants

How does a PCMX-sound wash the wound? How much the stern name may have taken away from the attraction of the brand in question is worth asking.

The then-Reckitt & Sons had almost agreed to name the best-known antiseptic liquid PCMX. In the 1930s, the English parent of Dettol had agreed to sell it with the prohibitive name parachlorometaxylenol. The aromatic compound that gives Dettol the capacity to combat germs, was short.

To show its medical background and rigor, the management wanted the name of the product. For years, RB has been studying Dettol in hospitals and maternity homes and because of the novelty of the drug, zeroed in on the word PCMX.

It accounted for just 4.8% of Dettol’s overall mixture but was strong enough to give the solution its germicidal properties without irritating the human skin as much as the antiseptic fluids at the time.

History may not, probably, have remembered PCMX, as well as Dettol did. It had an unmistakable medicinal affiliation, even though Dettol offered no hint of the formulation. The box was a tidy, no-nonsense, slim bottle with a wide cap with round edges that could quickly open.

The bottles are similar drug bottles from the thirties and the use of white on the green is suggestive of hospitals and nursing homes. 

Later, RB cleverly used this along with the clouding action, characteristic of Dettol when dissolved in water, in ads around the world, as the “sword of trust”. The same year it rolled out of RB’s factory in England, in 1932, Dettol came to India; multi-country launches were then unheard of.

RB tried to enter as many countries as it could & it was easy for India to be a British colony.

In local hospitals, Dettol Antiseptics & Disinfectants products found the permission for first-aid, ward sweeping, linen washing, etc. But since Indians believed in using home remedies such as haldi (turmeric) as a germicide, it persisted outside of homes. Before being the household name it is now the company has miles to cover.

Of the first users of doctor referrals, RB, say, brand historians, was. This was a medium that customers valued. For the washing of wounds or for use during mild operations, allopathic doctors will hold an antiseptic spray.

On those times, RB had to ensure that they reached out to Dettol. In order to see if Dettol was used, patients followed the doctor who prescribed Dettol for home use.

Dettol was the face of the new thinking about germs, which was what allopathy increased – that disease happens by germs. While traditional thinking the disease happens by a body imbalance, says Kiran Khalap, founder, Chlorophyll communication consultancy. “Dettol represented the new thinking about germs, which was what allopathy propagated – that disease happened by germs. While traditional thinking the disease happened by an imbalance of the body. It helped that the social milieu was accepting modern science then. It was not uncommon to be told that if you stepped out in the heat and dust then you should bathe in Dettol water or that you should clean your toilets with Dettol, besides using it to heal wounds. Dettol was positioned as invisible protection against germs.”

In the 1960s, RB supported its ground-level effort with cinema advertisements using the mother-child relationship as the focal point to drive home the germ-protection message. Over the decades, this has continued. Dettol had expanded into soaps by 1981, taking its germ-protection property into the competitive space for personal care.

By the 1990s, plasters, liquid soap, and shaving cream made entry in its portfolio, followed in the 21st century by adding body wash, kitchen gel, hygiene liquids, and wet wipes. “Dettol is famous as a gold standard in germ protection. Over the years, it has evolved, but has remained consistent with its core in every way it engages with users.”In germ protection, Dettol is famous as a gold standard. It has evolved over the years but has remained compatible with its core in every way it engages with users.

The broad health & hygiene care and Dettol Cleaning Products has meant that Hindustan Unilever’s Lifebuoy, also placed on the same plank, has increasingly found itself fighting.

It has at times waged acrimonious advertising and legal battles with the latter. Yet it refuses to cower, taking the fight to the doorstep of competitors in the fight for share.

Dettol enjoys more than 85% market share in antiseptics and disinfectants liquids. It oscillates between number three and number four in soaps and detergents, after Lifebuoy and Lux of HUL and at times, Santoor of Wipro. It claims a share of over 50 percent in liquid soaps, ahead of rivals. While continuing with its germ-protection plank, Dettol is clearly not made to protect its turf.

What drives Dettol?

Although Dettol liquid began to deter illness and sickness in hospitals in the UK, the task of their brand has always been much greater. As part of their everyday life in their house, Dettol needs to protect families in order to help keep people safe. This is their wellness mission.

Their first big task was first aid, avoiding infection from cuts and bruises. Their mission has since been expanded to deter the transmission of germ-causing disease on palms, limbs, and surfaces.

They now sell several items from Dettol, like Antiseptics and Disinfectants in Cleaning Supplies all engineered to protect the families from germs & disease.

We cooperate with partners such as Save The Children in their wellness project to meet moms who need them most in areas where the distinction between life and death is protection from sickness.

They promise to do more for the welfare of families across the globe every year. Dettol company and its hand wash & sanitizers as Antiseptics & Disinfectants helped people all around to fight against the novel coronavirus during pandemic. The Dettol brand said it will “continue to play our part in combating and containing the outbreak of the virus”.

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