Handwashing campaign aids Lifebuoy brand engagement


Makini School pupils wash their hands during a past Global Handwashing Day celebrations.

Unilever Kenya, through its Lifebuoy soap brand, each year commemorates Global Handwashing Day on October 15.

This year the company held an event at Lavington Primary School in Nairobi on October 12 to educate pupils on the importance of hand and face washing with soap to prevent diseases such as diarrhoea.

Such brand movements, where companies involve consumers in a campaign they are passionate about, can, in the end, see the movement itself inextricably tied to the brand.

“Our campaign objective was to drive brand awareness by taking over social media with our #high5forhandwashing campaign. From this we garnered 160 million Twitter impressions, our share of voice on Twitter was more than 80 per cent, 4,000 tweet engagements and 3.6 per cent engagement rate, against the industry benchmark of two per cent,” said Carolyne Kendi, Lifebuoy marketing manager.

Creating handwashing awareness is a significant initiative, with studies showing that washing hands with soap is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diseases.

This is particularly key when the total number of neonatal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa was more than one million in 2015 and over 780,000 in under-five year children from pneumonia and diarrhoea, according to the World Health Organisation.

Through the Global Handwashing Day initiative, Unilever has sought to show consumers that such deaths can be reduced by the simple practice of washing their hands. But such sponsorship can lead to the campaign’s growth to the point it becomes bigger than the brand.

“Brand-fuelled movements differ from mere fads in that they are not based on one-time, short-term events but occur when the brand becomes part of someone’s daily life in a sustained manner.

“Movements have stickiness to them compared to trends or fads,” reported Deloitte in its Science of Movement research.

For Unilever, it has carried out the handwashing campaign globally for 10 years and in Kenya for two years. This year it managed to reach 406,000 children.

“They are generally tied into a social cause or a community’s belief that they are contributing to a greater good or purpose within broader society. The movement drives cultural or behavioural change or is aligned with a fundamental shift in social values. Brands at the centre of movements become part of the social fabric, changing mind-sets and how people consume products and services,” reported Deloitte.

Another example of a company that created a movement with one of its brands is P&G with its sanitary towels category, Always. In 2013, it launched the campaign, ‘Like a Girl’, the idea was to take the commonly-used insult “like a girl”, which meant weak, to inspire change to mean strong and amazing.

According to a case study conducted by Institute for PR, the Always video achieved over 76 million total global views on YouTube from 150 countries.

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More than one million people shared the video, it achieved 4.5 billion impressions, earned more than 1,880 media placements globally and 81 per cent of women ages 16-24 supported it in creating a movement to reclaim ‘Like a Girl’ as a positive and inspiring statement.

“It planned a global campaign to drive an emotional connection to the brand, especially amongst millennials, and foster popularity and brand loyalty. It needed to create a campaign that leveraged the brand’s legacy of supporting girls as they make the transition at puberty to young women, while reinforcing why it’s “relevant to me” and one that “understands the social issues girls face at puberty today,” reported Institute for PR.

“The campaign was an overwhelming success. What started as a small social experiment quickly grew into a trending social conversation that spread around the world and surpassed the brand’s expectations.”

Thus, for brands make an impact in the market and grow their consumer base at the same time, creating a movement has emerged as a primary vehicle.

- African Laughter