Cannes, France — Samir Singh, global brand vice president at Unilever, asked that if we pass his story on, we start by showing this incredible video. You have to watch it to understand the challenge his team was up against:
The added heartbreak is that 20 more children under the age of five have died because of diarrhea and pneumonia in the time it took you to watch that video.
1.7 million children, a number equivalent to 20 jumbo jets full of kids under the age of five crashing every day, die every year of these conditions. But, those numbers become statistics. Dr, Myriam Webster, global social mission director, Unilever, said “they remain numbers.” It’s stories that change minds.
Telling that one story – of a man celebrating his son’s 5th birthday – earned more champions of Lifebuoy’s cause than they’d been able to find in the last 120 years combined.
For Unilever, the Lifebuoy brand and it’s good work aren’t about charity or one-off PR opportunities. They’re about changing behaviors to both do good for society and good for the company. Soap saves lives. Selling more soap builds bottom lines.
Rallying people behind that double-bottom-line cause is the focus of this team. They already support the largest public hygiene campaign in the world. Their ambition is to reach 1 billion people.
To accomplish that, they focus in on connecting with mothers at times of high anxiety about hygiene. Times like back to school, change of seasons, and around festivals where people gather and congregate.
In one powerful example, they stamped 5 million roti with a soap washing reminder at Kumbh Mela 2013 in Allahabad, India, where a 100 million visitors pass through.
They’ve also created new ways for villages to connect around better hygiene, like a clever jump pump designed to bring children together or a simple test to show children how clean their “clean hands” really are (that one reminds me of the clean-teeth tests we took in elementary school).
Along the way, the team has learned a lot about what it takes to change norms and save lives. You can’t blame the victims or threaten them with disease, death and doctors. Instead, you have to bring them together. Here are their principles of earning change:
- Bring mom and kid together
- Create positive reinforcement in a public setting amongst peers
- Earn a pledge
- Show that visibly clean is not necessarily clean
- Stick with them for the 21 days it takes to create a habit
Unilever has delivered real health impact – reducing diarrhea by 25%; reducing respiratory infections by 15%, and increasing school attendance by 40%.
This is their very latest purpose-building, world-changing video that earned 10 million views in 2 weeks.