Hygiene genies: the importance of reassuring brand language

Written by Rachel McCallion

In the age of COVID-19, there’s no denying it: soap sells.

As we all tiptoe back to the lives we once knew, audiences want reassurance that your goods and services are as clean as can be. Smart brands are already hitting our inboxes with hygiene updates and cleaning protocols. In this new world, the cleanest wins.

We’ve picked out some of the brands mopping the floor with the competition. And one that needs to clean up its act.

Intercontinental Hotel Group

Customer anxiety about hygiene is at an all-time high. So, IHG recently emailed an update on their new ‘science-led’ cleaning protocols – designed to keep every hotel room virus-free. It’s a smart move. Even smarter is the fact they didn’t add a ‘book now’ button. This focus on care, not conversions, boosts the impact of the message.


When it comes to post-lockdown hygiene messaging, it seems there’s no such thing as too much detail. Even IHG’s 500-word web page wasn’t enough for some, with one Twitter asking for hotel-specific information.


Car rental company, Avis, sent out a similar email. But theirs was more sales focused – it included multiple calls to action. Did that undermine the message? We don’t think so. Because the email also announced zero reservation and cancellation fees until September – showing a focus on customer care, not profit.



Another point on those calls to action – Avis’ competitor Hertz filed for bankruptcy the same week the email was sent. Times are clearly tough in the car rental market. As well as adapting to consumer needs, Avis figured out what messaging worked for their business. We think they hit the balance just right. 

United Airlines

Airline partnerships once featured Hollywood movie stars and olympic heroes. Now, cleaning brands are the hottest endorsement around. A partnership with Clorox is a smart pre-emptive strike from United Airlines. They may not be able to sell seats now, but pretty soon we’ll be able to empty all our possessions into a plastic tray, remove our belts and eat miniature pretzels. When the day comes, the link between United Airlines and virus-busting cleaning procedures will be well established.


Gap is among those leading the march back to the High Street. So you’d think they’d have an airtight plan to reopen their stores safely. If they do, their social media posts aren’t doing a great job of communicating it.

Vague terms like ‘some stores may require customers to...‘ and ‘we’re encouraging customers to...’ are creating more confusion than confidence. As one Twitter user put it, ‘“What does this mean?” It leaves the reader wondering if Gap is on top of the rules at all.


What can we learn from these early examples of hygiene comms? Show your thought process. Share excruciating detail. And, most importantly of all, reflect your concern for the health of your staff and customers.

Next steps in brand messaging

Is your messaging not hitting the mark? We can help develop your brand language by getting to know your organisation, teams and mission. Then, we'll help you communicate it to your customers.