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What Can You Learn From Purell?

How a Hand Sanitizer Shortage Can Impact Your Credit Union

In news that probably comes as no surprise to anyone, there appears to be a national shortage of Purell®.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that the popular hand sanitizer has been flying off the shelves at stores and pharmacies across the country. To date, the product’s parent company, GOJO Industries, Inc., hasn’t provided a timeline for when the Purell supply might return to normal. But Samantha Williams, GOJO’s corporate communications senior director, told the Inquirer, “We have a surge preparedness team that runs in the background all the time, who have been fully activated and are coordinating our response to the increase in demand.”

While it’s currently due to increased concerns about the coronavirus, Purell’s high demand actually stems from unconventional business strategies implemented in the brand’s early days. Sure, Purell is a household name now, but when GOJO launched the sanitizer back in 1988, the public response was far less enthusiastic. The fact that Purell is still around—let alone in historically high demand—speaks volumes about the hard work and dedication of those who believed in its potential.

Whether you’re the CEO of a credit union, the manager of a branch, or a leader in any capacity, Purell’s story demonstrates three key traits that you can apply to your leadership:
  1. Persistence In 1988, nobody knew what hand sanitizer was. It wasn’t soap. It didn’t rinse off. In short, it was practically impossible to sell. That being said, GOJO’s CEO Joe Kanfer was confident they were onto something, so he made it 25 percent of his sales team’s annual goal. Success didn’t come quickly, but today’s market demand (even before the coronavirus concerns) proves that Kanfer’s confidence was well-placed.
  2. Placement Next time you visit a store, pay attention to where you find Purell. (Although, with the current shortage in mind, you may have to wait a bit.) There’s a good chance you’ll find automatic dispensers near the entrances and the exits. If you’re in a medical office, you’ll probably see Purell stations strategically placed where doctors, nurses, and support staff can access them easily. No matter what business you’re in, it pays to customize your product placement and meet your customers wherever they are.
  3. Patience Believe it or not, 1988 was 32 years ago! While Purell has become so familiar that it’s almost synonymous with the term “hand sanitizer,” it took a while to catch on. But despite initial reluctance from the general public, it’s important to remember that through patience and persistence, GOJO salespeople created a massive shift in the health habits of millions of people around the world.
When it comes to a product launch or marketing, I often see leaders adopt an “I want success now” attitude. I call this approach “cocaine advertising.” Keep taking hits and spending more money to be successful, and then when you stop for a moment, it all comes crumbling down. Purell’s story is a perfect encapsulation of a mantra worth remembering: There’s no such thing as an overnight success.

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