Dettol's Covid warrior campaign: Perceptive or purpose washing?

The brand has replaced its iconic logo with faces of Covid-warriors on four million packs

e4m by Mansi Sharma
Updated: Jun 11, 2021 9:24 AM

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#DettolSalutes

The past one-and-a-half years have been extremely challenging for everyone given the havoc that the Covid-2019 pandemic has created. But it also showed us the power of human solidarity, wherein some good samaritans went above and beyond their roles in society and helped millions of people during this worldwide pandemic. And to recognize their selfless efforts, MCG major Reckitt launched the #DettolSalutes campaign, wherein they have decided to replace the iconic Dettol logo from the packs of its handwashes with the inspiring faces of 100 Covid warriors. The campaign is drawing widespread praises from the marketing community, which is calling it a beautiful gesture of empowerment and positivity.

Brand-Building.com founder Ambi Parameswaran commented, “The idea of creating personalised packs is not new. Coke did it in several markets. When I was in Nepal for a conference, I got a Coke bottle with my name on it. Lay’s has done a great campaign in India last year with consumer ’smiles’ on their packs. So putting consumer photos on a pack is not new. But here Dettol has gone a step further to put the photos and stories of Covid warriors drawn from across the country. Unlike Lay’s they have given these warriors a pride of place, the place occupied by the brand logo.”

Independent Communication Consultant Karthik Srinivasan said, “I felt that it was a nice gesture from Dettol/Reckitt. These stories are certainly inspiring and could help convey them to a lot more people over a longer period of time considering the life of these bottles/packaging.”

ClanConnect COO Kunal Kishore Sinha added that the campaign is very well thought out and works well because it is extending the brand persona. “Dettol is known for saving people from all sorts of infections and the whole campaign comes out as a natural extension of it.”

Brand-nomics MD Viren Razdan further commented, “Well done for a brand that resides in ‘safety from germs’. This initiative takes a high ground, especially when the front line workers are our new heroes. It is a classic case of relevance well used, perhaps the best COVID campaign I’ve seen.”

While the gesture is being celebrated by the industry, it is drawing mixed reactions to help the brand image further. 

Logicserve Digital Vice President - Creative & Social Manesh Swamy quipped, “It is definitely working. It’s making people talk. The brand will surely reap a positive rub-off since the thought is translated on a huge scale and printed on the actual product (which is like a safety net in such times). With this campaign, people are sure to notice the efforts that will eventually help the brand heighten the brand image and its affinity with consumers.” 

Grapes Digital COO and Strategy Head Shradha Agarwal resonated similar thoughts as she noted, “It's a smart approach adopted by the brand, which showcases their responsibility towards citizens as well as serves the marketing purpose also. The audience is admiring the campaign, which will eventually benefit the brand image.”

But Srinivasan didn’t think that the campaign helped Dettol's brand image beyond the simple fact that they went out of their way to salute these individuals. 

He explained, “For instance, in the UK, Dettol is running a new campaign right now where they feature interesting small businesses or interesting individuals who have restarted their businesses or hobbies/interests because Dettol is there to help them protect (and continue) those hobbies or interests. The brand connect was direct in this campaign. In the Indian campaign, while the pack says, 'Dettol protects our protectors' the result looks more CSR'ish than something that could tangibly help the brand image.”

Furthermore, Parameswaran elucidated that the brand should be aware of the fact that the whole exercise could be termed ‘purpose washing if they are not able to carry the initiative forward. 

He said, “Is it just a gimmick or is there more to this, one wonders. Is the brand backing up this ’tokenism’ with some real support for Covid warriors? Are they going to donate all the revenue they get from the sale of these packs to Covid care efforts?  While I know that Dettol may have done a lot during the pandemic, they have to be aware that it can be termed ‘purpose washing if they are not able to carry the initiative forward. 

“If they do something significant, then one will be all the more supportive of this move. Instead, if it is just some pack label space given to people who have worked hard, donated hard-earned money, then I will say they deserve this fully, but what more is Dettol doing for them?” 

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