Recently, we had the opportunity to talk to Eric Pearlman, Director, Global Business Solutions, Americas, at Reckitt Benckiser (RB). Eric is a mover and a shaker, and he has proven to be shaking things up at RB as he leads the professional division into some unprecedented times. In this issue of CBX Straight Talk, we’ll discuss RB’s new wellness platform, and how RB is partnering with organizations such as Delta, Hilton, Avis, and other travel and hospitality companies to make sure consumers have peace of mind and confidence, in a world filled with uncertainty.
Stacy: Eric, it’s been an interesting time for brands. What has Reckitt Benckiser been doing during the pandemic and these uncertain times to grow and build the business?
Eric: At Reckitt Benckiser, Global Business Solutions represent all the brands that are good for you and your health & wellness, including cleaning, protection (Lysol®), and air care.
And we’ve really converted our way of selling over the past year to what we call “selling wellness.” It is our duty to provide continued protection for consumers and staff as they venture away from home. Our consumer brands play a strong role in protecting your home, and our Business Solutions team continues and extends the role of our product’s protection. We understand that if your workspace smells better and looks better, and if it is cleaned and disinfected with brands you trust, you’re not only less sick, but you are also able to feel at ease and confident.
If you think of air care, if you have your own scent, it can relax you, give you a sense of your own space, even at work. And that motivates people. And there are all these studies to show, being more comfortable makes you more productive and engaged.
Stacy: How did you take the idea of selling wellness and make it actionable?
Eric: We’ve been push marketers on the professional side; we sell through master distributors because we’re in a business that sells truckloads, and they’d break it down into smaller distributors, and then a product gets to daycare or school. We have always just leveraged promotions and pushed our marketing through the channels. And now, we are focused on business development and what we’re calling “strategic alliances” to grow and enhance our business.
At the same time, the strategic alliances we have developed center around keeping places clean and safe during this unprecedented time… it really began first with Amazon, and then with hospitality. As you know, people aren’t going to hotels now. The hotels are normally looking at a 75% occupancy rate, and currently, they’re down to 12% in the U.S.
The hotels started conducting sentiment-tracking research in early spring, and they realized that what customers in today’s market really need is confidence. Basically, they started realizing that people were scared to travel again. And, at the same time, RB was also coming up with that from research—consumers wanted additional confidence to ensure they felt safe when traveling today.
Stacy: So, did those insights change the way you did business? How did the insights you gleaned change your business?
Eric: From our perspective, we started realizing how we sell products, and in the past, people had always come to us. For example, in long-term care, we would sell the cleaning products that are used at the end of the day, or even in the office, and some products that were used during the day, job-specific cleaners the cleaning person would use.
Our thinking shifted to be about when you put a loved one in a care facility, you want to re-create a home-like experience. When consumers see a brand like Lysol that they grew up with, it represents trust and science. Families feel more comfortable about putting loved ones in long-term care or children in daycare, because they use products that make people feel more comfortable. Which allowed us to change our sales strategy from price–driven sales to consumer need–and benefit-driven sales.
It became the same conversation with the hospitality industry: LYSOL® is a trusted brand with a loyal following backed by science, disinfection and efficacy. The hospitality industry was suffering from a lack of trust in efficacy, and they needed to be able to link their hotel brands to brands that could amplify their brands’ trust as a proof point. And trust, you know, gives confidence. Our program is about confidence and advocacy because it’s not only getting people to travel, but once you travel, you have a good experience. And then you share your experience.
We basically took what we’ve done in long-term care for many years, and we applied some of the same ideas to other industries. And companies were coming to us, like DELTA, because they realized the businesses are down, and they have a need to increase consumer confidence . . . and trust, a higher-order benefit. And we can help them get there.
Stacy: And how else did you add value through these strategic partnerships?
Eric: Many companies came to us to ask if we can you provide a solution to help build confidence, so we developed the P.R.E.P. program. P.R.E.P. stands for our Professional Resources for Enhanced Protection, and the idea behind it has two facets. One is a “Seal” of protection, protocols, and a higher-order level of clean or disinfection. And, if companies can post a branded certification of cleanliness and protection in their lobbies, it could help provide extra reassurance and confidence.
P.R.E.P. has a team that can come in and review a company’s cleaning and protection protocols. We have science and microbiologists on our team, and they can check your process and protocols to ensure that you are using the best products for disinfection and clean.
Stacy: So, the seal is one part of the equation, like an extra reassurance and credibility check. What is the second part?
Eric: The other part of the equation is the ability to have real-time product available in what is considered “hot spots” — those areas that germs grow rapidly, where you should use our products as an enhancement to your cleaning regimen. Places where consumers can see product in highly visible areas. Consumers want to see the Lysol brand because it helps make them feel confident; they feel that they have a trusted brand at their disposal, and they can use it in real time for comfort.
It’s allowed us to pivot from a price conversation to a new conversation centered around strategic alliances. It is a long-term commitment, that is not just a branding play. We will co-innovate with you, include you in our product development, share our consumer insights, and so on.
Finally, it’s important to have a comprehensive communications program to let consumers (and staff) know what enhanced policies have been put into place to maximize the impact P.R.E.P. can have and, ultimately, the benefits it provides.
Stacy: What is the impact of the Lysol brand at times like this? What does your research say the brand can do for other organizations?
Eric: We know if we combine Lysol and another brand, like Hilton, Delta, Avis, Amtrak, the power of the two is greater than just one. By adding Lysol to the other brands, the takeaways were escalated in terms of appeal and impact.
Stacy: As you look to the future, what other plans does RB have to shake things up and innovate?
Eric: Innovation is always the frontier to keep us ahead of our competition, and we are always looking for new ways to quickly and conveniently eliminate germs. We are following trends, like most, in areas like sustainability, new structures, and devices. I think the whole CPG shift is about converting into service areas and using technology to enable services for our customers.