Riding the Immunity Wave

20 May,2020


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Immunity is a great business. In a coronavirus-led world of anxiety and fear, expect immunity predators to demonstrate the highs and lows in marketing. How the consumer reacts to their offerings depends upon how their reality is adulterated with perceptions.


We can’t lead a quarantined life forever. At some stage, lockdown will be reclamped, relaxed or completely lifted. Though the last normal is left behind and the new is yet to take shape. Pressed for productive economic activities, we will step out of our bubbles and cautiously interact.


We all know that the fittest will survive. The situation demands high Immunity levels, and that is the only way out. Immunity is not the barrier against infection, it is the force available to fight the virus infection. Each one of us wants to be loaded with it.


Covid-19 Redefined World


We are entering a redefined world. We need to realign, refocus on every part of life. With or without the vaccine, containment or herd Immunity, individual will have to invest in immunity build-up as a defensive measure.


Health, hygiene and insurance brands and services will do well in the caution, precaution and sanitisation fuelled world. There is no doubt that the demand for fortified food and beverages will be on the up. And in that case, some brands and product with unqualified promises will also move in.


Not sure if Starbucks has plans for a Golden-Coffee and McDonald’s for Ginger-Nuggets. However, we will see a wave of immunity solutions addressing the anxiety loaded audience with tea, milk and other food variants. The audience is primed for such offerings and services. It is natural for everyone to be interested in anything that promises protection against the virus.


Too much Confusion about Self-immunity Boosters


The consumers will experiment with self-immunity boost-up. If you scan the world for it, you will find that one should increase the intake of oxidants, enhance vitamin C, B, D and E levels, and keep our gut healthy. We are informed of the possibilities with the wonderful world of superfoods


There is a long list of possible warriors. Almonds, Amla, Apple, Basil leaves, Berries, Black pepper, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cardamom, Carrots, Chia seeds, Cinnamon, Clove, Coconut oil ( organic), Flax seeds, Garlic, Ginger, Green Tea, Lime, Moringa, Mulethi, Neem, Onions, Oranges, Pumpkins, Saffron, Spinach, Spirulina, Turmeric, Walnut, Yoghurt etc.

The whole narrative in the web is layered with high sounding words like Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antiviral, Ascorbic acid, Oxidants, Beta carotene, Good bacteria source, Omega 3, Hydrating agent etc.


The articles and available public domain wisdom advice to Eat properly, Exercise regularly Sleep well and Keep Stress Away & Stay positive. Avoid, better still stop smoking/vaping/e-cigarettes, non-essential travels and alcoholic drinks. Now if you do that anyway, you will be healthy. However, it is no guarantee against the virus.


It is enough to confuse anyone. There is too much to read, understand, decide and to follow. However, there is no time for experimentation. Hence, when trusted brands claim and assure us of building Immunity, we take the easy way out, we blindly believe them. Moreover, some brands rightly reading the situation lead us with false promises.


Our immunity towards advertising and such information is low. We believe what the brands tell us. WE follow their advice. And we have no way to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong.


Could Immunity Boost Work?


So, an article in vice.com, says, ‘For the human body to work optimally, you need these vitamins, minerals… However, having an overabundance of these vitamins or minerals has never proven to shorten the duration of any kind of virus, bacteria, or cold’, additionally it warns; ‘loading up on products packed with “immune-boosting” ingredients is, at best, a waste of money. At worst, flooding your body with excessive amounts of fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamins D and A) could lead to vitamin toxicity, a condition that brings its own serious health risks like skin issues, nausea, liver damage, or even death, depending on which vitamin is consumed in toxic amounts‘. Now should I take this at face value? I am not sure, but to me, it sounded logical. 


Immunity Boosters – Initial Arrivals


It is a different thing when medically approved brands and products talk of immunity supplementing or boosting. The problem is when brands try to ride the immunity wave. Don’t be surprised to find ‘Immunity boosters and fortified products’ as a stand-alone category in e-commerce sites.


ITC launched sanitiser sachets for Rs 0.50, making it easy for the price-sensitive segment in smaller towns, rural area and even the cities. It is absolutely right, a defendable and believable a functional benefit is offered. But, then there are brands which are trying to rewrite their story.


Immunity Booster v/s Immunity Provider v/s Immunity Predators


Amul, the biggest dairy brand of the country, for all practical purpose, branded Amul milk- Immunity Milk. Staying at the edge where technically it may be difficult to find fault. However, after watching the communication, the customer will see Amul Milk as Immunity Milk and not something that is helping immunity development. Exactly the way the brand would want.



Horlicks, a supplement and one of the reasons kids end up drinking milk take drama to the other edge. It now takes the ‘husbands of a doctor’ route in getting the association. No, no doctor is endorsing it. Clever. You have to give it to the brand, they only talk about Immunity boosting capabilities.



As reported in BFO by The Ken, in Indonesia, the Ministry of Agriculture is selling something as Coronavirus cure. It launched a series of three products, an inhaler stick, an oil, and a powder, to be used for inhalation and diffusion in the room. It claims this “Anti Coronavirus” kills 80-100% viruses! That sounds like Immunity Predators in action but if it is backed with research- wow let’s all get it here. 


Traditional Immunity Boosters


Golden Milk for immunity build-up is a piece of traditional knowledge. The dominant immunity building agent is Turmeric, and milk aides the process. Now, it will be accepted and appreciated if some brand takes this knowledge and launch Golden Milk premixes, sachet, concentrates, coffee..



Traditional knowledge suggests that the right kind of tea can also help in Immunity boosting. Here is a communication promoting tea as an immunity booster.



Expect more brands to take on the immunity provider and enhancer role. Sometimes rightly and most of the times because it is the thing that works and they can get away with.

I agree with VICE.com, such Immunity enhancing claims sound harmless in the normal that does not exist. However, they are like medical advice in the era of coronavirus. Brands try taking advantage of such vulnerabilities. And truly, sincerely, there is no more vulnerable time than during a pandemic’.


ASCI has a role here. It must issue a guideline for the use of IMMUNITY in communication. Just naming these ads as misleading will not be good enough.



While writing this, I read a few articles which further confused me.  Immunity Boosters to make you #coronasafeEat Right: 8 Immunity-Boosting Foods You Should Have This Monsoons4 Magical Foods That Could Help Boost Your Immunity, Boosting Your Immune System Against Coronavirus: How To Minimise The Risk Of Infection? , 30 Best Immune-Boosting Foods and 15 Foods That Boost the Immune System. And there is enough and more to confuse you.


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