Marketing of Lifeboy Soap – A Unilever Product

1. Introduction

Linking the brand to some other entity- some source factor or related person, place or thing- may create a new set of associations from the brand to the entity as well as affect existing brand associations. That is, brands themselves may be linked to other entities that have their own knowledge structures in the minds of consumers. Because of these linkages, consumers may assume or infer that some of the associations or responses that characterize the other entities may also be true for the brand. Thus in effect, some associations or responses become transferred from other entities to the brand. In other words, the brand essentially borrows some brand knowledge and, depending on the nature of those associations and responses, perhaps some brand equity from other entities.

In this paper, we have analyzed how endorsement of another entity has leveraged LIFEBUOYS’ image in the consumer mind and has affected the business, i.e. the sales growth.

2. About Unilever

In the 1980s, William Hesketh Lever, founder of Lever Brothers, wrote down his ideas for Sunlight Soap- his revolutionary new product that helped popularize cleanliness and hygiene in Victorian England. It was ‘to make cleanliness commonplace; to lessen work for women; to foster health and contribute to personal attractiveness that life may be more enjoyable and rewarding for the people who use our products.’

This was long before the phrase ‘Corporate Mission’ has been invented, but these ideas have stayed in the heart of their business. Even if their language-and the notion of only women doing housework-has become outdated.

In a history that now crosses three centuries, Unilever’s success has been influenced by the major events of the day-economic boom, depression, world wars, changing consumer lifestyles and advances in technology. And throughout they have created products that help people get more out of life-cutting the time spent on household chores, improving nutrition, enabling people to enjoy food and take care of their homes, their clothes and themselves.

In the 19th century the business that would later become Unilever were among the most philanthropic of their time. They set up projects to improve a lot of their workers and created products with a positive social impact, making hygiene and personal care commonplace and improving nutrition through adding vitamins to foods that were already daily staples.

Today, Unilever still believes that success means acting with ‘the highest standards of corporate behavior towards their employees, consumers and the societies and world in which we live.’ Over the years they have launched or participated in an ever-growing range of initiatives to source sustainable supplies of raw materials, project environments, support local communities and much more.

With 400 brands spanning 14 categories of home, personal care and food products, no other company touches so many people’s lives in so many different ways.

Although Unilever wasn’t formed until 1930, the companies that joined forces to create the business we know today they are already well established before the start of the 20th century. Unilever is now one of the world’s biggest companies, but takes the decision to focus its portfolio, and rationalize its business to focus on core products and brands.

3. Unilever in Bangladesh

Over the last four decades, Unilever Bangladesh has been constantly bringing new and world-class products for the Bangladesh people to remove the daily drudgery of life. Over 90% of the country’s households use one or more of their products. Their business mainly focuses on Fast Moving Consumer Goods Company with local manufacturing facilities, reporting to regional business groups for innovation and business results. The constitution states that Unilever holds 60.75% and the Government of Bangladesh holds 39.25% of shares. Their product categories features Household Care, Fabric Cleaning, Skin Cleansing, Skin Care, Oral Care, Hair Care, Personal Grooming, Tea based Beverages. Their manufacturing facility includes a soap manufacturing factory and a Personal Products factory located in Chittagong. Unilever operations in Bangladesh provide employment to over 10,000 people directly and through its dedicated suppliers, distributors and service providers. 99.5% of UBL employees are locals and they have equal number of Bangladeshis working abroad in other Unilever companies as expatriates.

4. About Lifebuoy

Lifebuoy is one of Unilever’s oldest brands, a brand that was truly ‘global’ before the term ‘global brand’ was invented. Lifebuoy Royal Disinfectant Soap was launched in 1894 as an affordable new product in the UK, to support people in their quest for better personal hygiene. Soon after launch, Lifebuoy soap traveled across the world, reaching countries such as India and Bangladesh, where even today it is still the market leading brand.
Lifebuoy has been a successful product as well in our country right from their start of operations for more than four decades now. What makes Lifebuoy so unique and acceptable is its unique formulations. Lifebuoy’s antibacterial ingredients in all its products make it superior to all other ordinary soaps, giving 100% better germ protection. Good health, protection against most skin germs and control of body odor make up the core objectives of the brand.

5. Products of Lifebuoy (2000-2006)

Lifebuoy started its journey with a single product named ‘ Lifebuoy Antibacterial Soap’ & this was a carbolic soap with strong fragrance & their target market were the male consumers with low income. But with the growing time, technology & consumer demand they came up with different line extensions of their product, & this time they targeted the family consumers of middle & upper-middle class.

In the year of 2000-2001, Lifebuoy came up with the following product lines:

Lifebuoy Antibacterial soap

Lifebuoy re-launched itself in new package Lifebuoy Gold

 Lifebuoy re-launched it self in a new packaging system
 In order to acquire new consumers of soap market they introduced a new product with improved qualities named ‘Lifebuoy Gold’. With the introduction of the Lifebuoy Gold variant, the brand added a complete new dimension to its image. Lifebuoy Gold has now brought the whole family into its bubble of health and protection. It is yet another innovative antibacterial formulation promised to serve all members and requirements in the home – from controlling adolescent pimples and body odour to protecting cuts and bruises from further infection. Its mildness along with the goodness of beauty soap makes it convenient for use by the whole family.

In the year 2002-2003 lifebuoy again re-launched it-self with a newer look for two times.

 It changed the shape of the bar
 It changed the packaging
 It changed the promotional activities

In the year 2004 Lifebuoy again came up with the following line extensions:

Lifebuoy Antibacterial soap

Lifebuoy antibacterial soap Lifebuoy Gold

Lifebuoy Strong Lifebuoy Neem Lifebuoy gold Lifebuoy gold
White Pink

 They introduced two different product formulations ‘Lifebuoy strong’& ‘Lifebuoy neem’ under the existing lifebuoy soap for the same target market. For generations natural herbal ingredients like Neem has been reverred for its antiseptic qualities. Lifebouy Neem soap has brought in the do-good qualities of Neem to the promise of protection from germs offered by Lifebouy soap.

 They also introduced two different fragrances & colors for the whole middle-class consumers

Finally In the year 2005-2006 Lifebuoy came up with different changes in their product lines.


Lifebuoy Total Lifebuoy Gold

Gold Care Gold Nourish Gold Deo-fresh Gold Nature

6. Lifebuoy’s leveraging activities worldwide

Lifebuoy saves life

Consistent in Lifebuoy’s 110+ history has been its championing of health through hygiene. The brands core promise of protection and a commitment to support life through unbeatable protection is at the heart of the brand name itself-Lifebuoy, the guarantee of protection when you are threatened. For example, a 1930’s campaign in the US was titled ‘Clean hands help guard health’ encouraging the use of lifebuoy soap to kill the germs on hands that can cause health issues. A similar campaign continues today, with Lifebuoy hygiene education programs ongoing in countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Vietnam.

A helping hand

According to the World Health Organization, diarrhea is the single largest cause of preventable death, killing 2.2 million people every year. In 2003, it killed 600 000 children aged under five in India alone. It’s been estimated that if everyone washed their hands properly at key times during the day, up to half of all childhood deaths from diarrhea-more than one million children- could be avoided.

Lifebuoy has always played a role in terms of crisis, helping to prevent the spread of germs and disease:
• During the Blitz of London in 1940, Lifebuoy soap provided free emergency mobile washing facilities to Londoners. Lifebuoy vans were equipped with hot showers, soap and towel.
• In the aftermath of the Tsunami in Asia in December 2004, Lifebuoy bars were a key element in the relief packages distributed in Southern India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases so endemic in the aftermath of such disasters.
• In 2005, over 200 000 bars of Lifebuoy soap were donated to UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross to support their earthquake relief operations in Northern India and Pakistan.

Revitalizing the brand

Since 2000, major changes have been made to the Classic Lifebuoy Soap bar to ensure that it provides improved hygiene protection and a more enjoyable healthy washing experience for its billions of consumers.
• Lifebuoy soap’s classic hard red brick shape has been replaced with a new signature Lifebuoy shape. The new shape makes the bar easier to grip and use.
• The Lifebuoy Brand team has developed a new formulation providing even better germ protection that creates a rich lather on the skin.
• Lifebuoy soap’s characteristic medicated, carbolic smell has been replaced with a more enjoyable and contemporary ‘health’ fragrance.
• Lifebuoy has become more than just a red bar of soap-today the brand provides hygiene and health solutions for families, including a range of bar soaps, hand wash liquids and liquid shower gels. The most recent Lifebuoy innovation addressed the number one skin hygiene and health concerns for teens and twins: oily and acne prone skin. Lifebuoy Clear Skin is a bar soap formulated using radical new technology that is clinically proven to reduce even severe acne, by 70% in 6 weeks. Regular use, twice a day is proven to prevent and reduce the recurrence of acne.

7. Leveraging activity in Bangladesh

As the people of Bangladesh are quite attached to Broadcast and outdoor media, in order to leverage the brand in the Bangladeshi market Lifebuoy has used these two medias to a great extent. Lifebuoy has always promoted itself as health soap, while promoting the brand to the target consumers Lifebuoy has always used relevant endorsements such as-

• Doctors in dramatic situation: it is a common phenomenon that the consumers than the other products mostly prefer health products suggested or prescribed by the doctors. Keeping these facts in mind Lifebuoy has promoted itself in such a way where dramatic doctors are endorsed in the TV commercials where they certify Lifebuoy as an anti bacterial medicated soap and suggest the consumers to use Lifebuoy for 100% health protection.

Here Lifebuoy is leveraged by linking the image and the goodwill of the doctor.

• Using the RIPH (Royal Institute of Public Health) logo- it is seen that consciously or unconsciously we give more preference to those health products that are recommended by the International health organizations. It gives us a sense of security to use the recommended products rather than using other products. To provide the consumers with the sense of security, and to attract them Lifebuoy uses the seal of approval of RIPH on every package of Lifebuoy soap, which certifies the Lifebuoy to be 100% anti bacterial soap.

Using the approval seal leverages the brand image of Lifebuoy in the consumer mind.

• Using relative slogan and jingles- as a health soap Lifebuoy always uses such slogan and jingles which concentrates on promising health protection to the consumers. For example- “din bhor shashtho surokkha” and jingles like – “Shastho ke rokha kore Lifebuoy, Lifebuoy jekhane shashtho shekhane.”

• Unilever’s logo-whether it is the package or the promotional activities Lifebuoy always uses the official logo of Unilever and the reason is none other than the goodwill or Unilever.

Using the logo of Unilever leverages the brand equity of Lifebuoy.

• Event Management (Lifebuoy shashtho chetona)- through different types of awareness program and customer relationship building programs Lifebuoy leverages its brand equity. Among all ‘Lifebuoy shashtho chetona’ is the one where a team of Lifebuoy employees goes to the rural area and there they educate the rural people about the effects of hygiene on the health.

8. Comparing the Past with the Present (2000 & 2006) according to our observation:

 In the year 2000 they only had a single product of a single size that was formulated as carbolic soap with strong fragrance.

 In the year 2006 they have two different product lines with 5 products.

Target Market

 In the year 2000 the target market were the lower class male consumers.

 In the year 2006 they taken the whole body soap market of Bangladesh as their Target.
 In the year 2000 the lifebuoy red brick soap was priced only 6 tk.

 In the year 2006 following the value pricing strategy their products are priced between 5tk-20tk.


 In the year 2000 they only concentrated on the health care properties of the soap. The fragrant was strong & it used to be a carbolic soap that only took care of the washing the dirt from the root.

 In the year 2006 they have different formulation of soap for different type of target consumers with different fragrant.


 In terms of packaging in the year 2000, their packaging consisted of basic elementary packaging system with simplified paper wrapping system. The packaging was unattractive, & ineffective.
 Whereas they have developed a high quality packaging system with different colors & slogans.

9. Recently Used IMC Strategies

Television & Radio
Print Media- News Paper & Magazines.

 Above the Line Promotion Outdoor media- Billboard, Wall painting.

POS- Posters, Buntings, Danglers, shop signs, in-store merchandising.

Poster Bunting Billboard

Rural Campaigning- ‘Shastho Chetona’ (already have communicated more than 7 million people of Bangladesh)
 Below the Line Promotion

Lifebuoy gold market storming- One to one marketing

10. Changes in Leveraging & the Outcome

The year 2000 to 2006, its only six years, but the changes in Leveraging has changed the market scenario for Lifebuoy to a great extent. The Leveraging changes are highlighted below-

Year Leveraging
Before 2000 i) Only endorsed the rural male figure in their promotional activity.
ii) Used the parent company logo only in the packages.
2000-2001 i) Endorsed football players of national team
ii) Changed the packaging
iii) Launched a new product & changed the Promotional Activity
iv) Started doing event management (Shastho Chetona)
2002-2004 i) Modernized the TV commercials
ii) Targeted New Market
iii) Came up with New Product line
iv) Endorsed dramatic spokesman
2005-2006 i) Started using the parent company name in the TVCs
ii) Revitalized their product lines.

Because of the changes in leveraging the brand Lifebuoy experienced changes in sales, market share, net profit. The approximate results are given bellow.

 Till now Market share has increased by more than 6% compared to the Market share of 2000.
 Sales has increased twice compared to the sales of the year 2000
 NPS has increased by more than 15% compared to the year 2000.
 Lifebuoy has equalized the sales with the Lux the market leader of Soap market in Bangladesh.

11. Findings & Recommendations:

Although it has been found in the report that lifebuoy is already very much successful with their current strategies. We have found some points that they could have done to leverage the products & we’d suggest to look into these tiny lacking for further success. The findings are highlighted bellow-

 They could have made TVCs using the Bangladeshi spokes persons.

 They shouldn’t have used dubbed the Indian TVCs.

 They could use publicly popular personality, such as- movie actors, beauty contest winner or sportsman to add some prestige to the brand.

 They should introduce liquid body wash & shower gel in Bangladesh for the upper-class people.