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There was no bigger medical story in 2009 than the swine flu pandemic. International fears stranded travelers who had symptoms, hysterical parents kept kids from school if someone in their class had a cough, and lines snaked outside buildings where insufficient supplies of vaccine were being distributed.

If you could not find the vaccine and had to leave your house, what was a person to do? Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize, the latest rule of business strategy. Hand sanitizers have been one of the few recession-proof products. Sales skyrocketed by 70 percent in the six months prior to October 2009 compared with the previous year.

When Dewey Parsons and Mark Montopoli, the founders of Argenius Worldwide LLC, launched their all-natural hand sanitizer in Market Basket stores in Massachusetts, they sold 40,000 of the 2-ounce bottles—in a week! These entrepreneurs had discovered a way to take advantage of two burgeoning markets: hand sanitizers and natural products. They even added a luxury component by including aloe vera in their formulation, so that their product softens hands even as it sanitizes. Their successful venture, achieved by providing just what the market demands at the moment it wanted it, is exceeding their expectations so much that it boggles their minds.

“I hate saying swine flu helps business,” Parsons acknowledged, “but it does make people conscious that they need to sanitize.”

Discussion Questions:

1. Is this successful product launch merely a case of luck? 

2. What will happen to products such as these when the swine flu fears abate?

Katie Johnston, “Flu and Fears Create One Feverish Market,” Boston Globe, November 13, 2009.