Fighting the product usage stigma


I’m not afraid to admit that I’m one of those people who carries a little bottle of Purell hand sanitizer wherever I go. My reasons for doing so are quite straightforward: using hand sanitizer is a very effective way to avoid getting sick, especially when traveling. So why do I still feel self-conscious about using this product when I’m eating with friends or clients? I think there’s still a certain stigma associated with it, like using hand sanitizer means that you’re a little too concerned about germs or something. In turn, I believe these feelings limit the overall market for the product.

If there’s a stigma associated with using your product, it’s your responsibility to help fight it. The best way to do this is with hard data. For instance, the Purell people might buy up outdoor billboards and present stats on how many colds you can avoid by using the product. I think it would be pretty compelling to learn that “People who use Purell before each meal are 75% less likely to get a cold this year.” (I’m using made up data, of course.) This messaging also gives current users some ammunition to fend off criticism from their peers, further reducing the hesitation to use the product in public.

I also see a lot of value in focusing these campaigns on workplace and social situations. For instance, the Purell folks could provide free samples to offices, with messaging designed to emphasize how using the product means fewer sick days. Or, the ads could encourage people to share Purell when they’re dining with others, instead of feeling weird about using it in secret. Regardless of the exact message being delivered, the goal is to promote greater social acceptance of the product and reduce the stigma that current customers may feel when using it. And in doing so, you can help turn loyal but shy users into outspoken brand advocates who are promoting your product at the office, in restaurants, and all sorts of other venues.