Unilever's Lifebuoy: MMS 2.0


Client: Unilever India
Brand: Lifeboy
Category: Health & Beauty
Country: India
Year: 2016


Campaign Summary

Lifebuoy is the market leader in India in the toilet soap category with over 17 percent market share. The brand’s objective is to reinforce its authority as the best soap for germ protection.

India is a land of religious multiplicity. It is also home to 11 percent of the world's Muslims and ranks third after Indonesia and Pakistan. Muslims now comprise 15 percent of India’s population, having grown by 40 percent in the last six decades (Source: India Census Report 2011).

But, for centuries, religious multiplicity and cultural heritage have resulted in a tenuous and often volatile relationship between the majority Hindus, which comprise 80 percent of the population, and Muslims. National marketers in India have always steered clear of any communication targeted only at Muslims in the fear of alienating the substantial majority.

Unilever India’s flagship brand, Lifebuoy, the world’s #1 germ-protection soap wanted to target this large and growing base of Muslim consumers with its hand-washing message by understanding their customs and traditions and personalizing their interaction. However, they had to do so without alienating the Hindu majority.


Objective and Context

The objective was to increase Lifebuoy's positioning as “Effectively Protects from Germs” by 200 basis points among the Muslim population.

As a culture, most Indians eat with their hands and not with cutlery, causing them to ingest germs in the process. Kids are the most susceptible.

Hand-washing with soap is the single most cost-effective intervention to prevent child deaths. It is proven to reduce diarrhea by up to 45 percent and pneumonia by 23 percent. It can save 600,000 lives each year. While most people, even in poor households, have access to soap, the number of people who regularly wash their hands at the right times – such as before eating and after using the toilet – is very low. This is Lifebuoy’s core audience.

Lifebuoy wanted to make a meaningful connection with the Muslim community by embedding the importance of the Lifebuoy hand-washing message with consumers in a relevant context; with zero spillover to non-Muslims.

The holy month of Ramadan, the most important festival in the Muslim Calendar, was chosen as the right event for the campaign. Ramadan is an annual event where Muslims fast from dawn until sunset and refrain from consuming food and drinking liquids. The meal at sunset that breaks the fast is popularly called Iftar, and the timing varies by a few minutes every day.

After a full day of prayer and fasting, and the variety of food on display, millions of Muslims forget to wash their hands before breaking their fast. It’s commonly known that during Ramadan, going without food for long periods of time can interfere with metabolism, causing headaches and dehydration, and can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to common illnesses easily contracted by lack of hygiene.

Lifebuoy decided to strategically intervene at "the moment of truth," -- when and where Muslims broke their fast with a Lifebuoy Infection Alert System, with the simple messaging of “It's Lifebuoy Time, Before Iftar Time”.

Uttar Pradesh, in Northern India, is the most populous Muslim state and also Lifebuoy’s biggest market. Therefore, it was chosen as the target market.


Creative Strategy

Lifebuoy realized that the mobile phone was the market's omnipresent companion; even during the last prayer before Iftar.

However, the target audience, being from lower income groups, posed a challenge because they were users of basic feature phones, which have no Internet connectivity. While, Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS) is the commonly used method to target such consumers, Lifebuoy felt that audiovisual communication would deliver greater impact, so it used a revolutionary platform to get the message across to these consumers: MMS 2.0.

Apart from MMS 2.0, mosques where Muslims pray -- and restaurants where they break their fast -- became essential touchpoints. Muslims refrain from viewing entertainment on TV and only consume Ramadan-related content, which Lifebuoy activated. The daily Iftar time was published across all Urdu dailies, which were contextualized. The activity with mosques, Muslim restaurants and Urdu dailies were activated on all days of Ramadan with 
120 inserts in three leading Urdu dailies contextualizing the daily Iftar time. The Lifebuoy message was further reinforced by 80,000 branded takeaway food containers of popular Muslim eateries, and hand-washing stations outside 30 mosques and 63 eateries.

Lifebuoy also partnered with India’s leading telecom operator – the merged Vodafone and Idea -- along with Uttar Pradesh’s leading newspaper daily, Amar Ujala. The newspaper gave Lifebuoy access to its opted-in database of Muslim subscribers. Vodafone and Idea subscribers from this database were sent Lifebuoy videos through MMS 2.0.

Every Friday through the holy month of Ramadan, Muslim subscribers received a Lifebuoy Infection Alert with a video message that stated the importance of washing their hands with Lifebuoy before breaking their fast exactly five minutes before Iftar.


Here are the results of this campaign:

  • Hindustan Unilever’s highly targeted and personalized approach ensured that it stayed within the boundaries of ethnic challenges, achieving its objective and also seeing an unprecedented rise in key brand results. In the targeted areas, Lifebuoy saw primary off-takes jump by 382 percent during Ramadan.
  • Lifebuoy’s market share increased by 150 basis points during Ramadan, resulting in an overall share gain of 60 BPS nationally.
  • In Uttar Pradesh (India’s biggest soap market), the brand increased its endorsement score on “Protects Effectively from Germs” by 200 BPS.
  • The Lifebuoy campaign got an overwhelming response, and the campaign got coverage in leading publications, worth one million INR during Ramadan.

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