Air-Purifier Startup Turns Its Nose Up at Critics
A company pushing itself as an innovator in the air-purification biz is responding to critics who say its claims are nothing but wind. Its responses have been interesting, maybe even sincere, but too defensive and filled with jargon.
On Feb. 27, Tim Heffernan of product-review site Wirecutter highlighted a report two days before by the Better Business Bureau criticizing the marketing of San Francisco-based Molekule, whose ads for its Molekule Air are ubiquitous on social media.
Heffernan (pictured) noted that two publications that reviewed the air purifier panned it. One (back in October) was Wirecutter itself, which called the Molekule product “the worst air purifier we’ve ever tested.” Consumer Reports also recommended shoppers take a pass.
Competitor Dyson Ltd. had complained to the BBB’s National Advertising Division (where one complains about such things), challenging 26 of Molekule’s claims. NAD, as it’s known, agreed with every one of Dyson’s gripes, and recommended Molekule modify its marketing (as noted in NAD’s earlier press release).
“A report this comprehensive makes it hard to take any of Molekule’s claims seriously,” Heffernan wrote.
Molekule accepted certain of NAD’s recommendations (it’s appealing others), such as its claims of quantifying pollution elimination (the numbers weren’t backed up) and of independently testing the Molekule Air (the company had some connection to the labs).
NAD also said Molekule couldn’t prove its product, which uses its own PECO (photo electrochemical oxidation) technology, performed better than Dyson’s, which uses HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) technology — because it had never compared itself to HEPA.
Molekule is not like any other air purifier.
— Molekule Co-CEO Jaya Rao
On Jan. 30, the company responded with a blog post (“What Consumer Reports and Wirecutter Got Wrong in Their Molekule Reviews”). In jargon-filled language, it took issue with the way Wirecutter evaluated the Molekule Air, especially when it came to measuring particulate matter.
Molekule said the difference between HEPA and PECO is the difference between air filtration (capturing pollutants) and purification (capturing and killing them). Wirecutter admitted it doesn’t test PECO systems, Molekule said. It added that it had offered Wirecutter lab space to properly test the product “but they declined” and that since the reviews appeared an independent lab (paid by Molekule) had positively tested the Air.
In all, the post came off as defensive and too jargony (we wrote about the dangers of specialized language last week). For example, it refers to chemicals that “off-gas” and says the HEPA standard “does not take into account that lower air flow can improve destruction efficiency.”
On Feb. 27, Molekule Co-CEO Dilip Goswami posted another blog in which he took issue with Wirecutter’s report on the NAD decision. Goswami said Wirecutter was “both misleading about the NAD process, and flat out wrong.” He said that the whole thing stemmed from Dyson’s desire to hurt a competitor, that Molekule agreed only to remove statements such as that its product “completely eliminates” pollutants, and that Molekule’s “core claims” would be vindicated.
Both blog posts link to a two-minute video (above) from Co-CEO Jaya Rao, who recently told Bloomberg News that “Coronavirus is actually a rather simple structure for us to be able to be [sic] destroy.” In the video, Rao comes off as more human than the blog posts.
“Molekule is not like any other air purifier,” she says. “We are much more. We capture and destroy pollutants, and only ask that we are reviewed accurately and scientifically so that you have the best information possible.”
We’ll see if that clears the air.
Photo Credit: Wirecutter via YouTube
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