Lifebuoy – Swasthya Chetna

Developing markets such as India are an important source of growth for Unilever. The company is adopting unique marketing approaches to increase consumption of its products in these regions, positioning itself as an ethical brand that benefits wider society.

Unilever’s Lifebuoy ‘Swasthya Chetna’ (‘Health Awakening’) campaign is one example. This educates people on the importance of health and hygiene in preventing diarrhoea and encourages them to adopt a simple hand-washing regime using soap. Swasthya Chetna is India’s largest ever rural health and hygiene education program.

Diarrhoea is the world’s leading preventable cause of death, killing 2.2 million people every year including 600,000 Indian children under the age of five. According to a study by the London School of Tropical Hygiene, washing hands with soap and water can reduce instances of diarrhoea by 47%.

Many potential Lifebuoy customers live in remote, rural areas which can be hard to reach through conventional media. Ogilvy worked with Lifebuoy to create a direct communication campaign specially designed to raise awareness among India’s largely rural and often illiterate population.

Lifebuoy health officers visited 43,000 Indian villages and schools over five years where they used product demonstrations, interactive visuals, competitions and drama workshops to spread the health and hygiene message.

The program is based on the simple insight that ‘visible clean is not actual clean’ which was brought alive through a special ‘Glowgerm’ UV demo. When held under ultra-violet lamps, glowgerm powder glows on hands washed only with water, symbolising germs on those hands, and does not glow on hands washed with soap.

The program has reached 110 million rural Indians since it began in 2002. Awareness of germs has increased by 30% and soap use has increased among 79% of parents and among 93% of children in the areas targeted. Soap consumption has increased by 15%.

The campaign received recognition for its innovation and effectiveness, winning Silver in the Rural Marketing Advertisers Association of India awards in 2006, and the grand prize at the Asian CSR awards 2007. It was also recognized by the Indian government who created a special edition postal cover dedicated to the campaign.