In India Savlon grows sales with useful marketing

by Nigel Hollis | August 08, 2018

WARC has released its report ‘Cannes Lions 2018: Insights from the Creative Effectiveness Winners’, and while there are were some disturbing trends lurking in the analysis of campaign trends, Savlon’s Grand-Prix-winning case study is a delight.

In this age of search, skip, and share, the importance of creativity is greater than ever. But creativity is as much about problem-solving as earning attention. If you want your marketing activity to be effective you have to start out with a clear idea of how it will make more money for the brand, then you need to make sure the execution is so remarkable, emotional or useful that it influences people’s behavior.

The ‘Savlon: Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks’ campaign boosted value sales by 53 percent growing market share by 2.2 percent. It is a classic example of a disruptive campaign that starts by identifying the opportunity to grow. Recognizing that the majority of handwashing sales were made to affluent, health-conscious urbanites, the Savlon team decided to sidestep the competition and focus on less affluent consumers.


To do so the team created chalk sticks impregnated with soap that were distributed for free to schools and NGOs. When children who used the chalk sticks washed their hands, they saw the chalk dust turn to lather. Putting soap in the chalk sticks not only introduced the children to the brand, it allowed them to experience the benefits first hand. The question then becomes how to build on this experience and, to do so, Savlon introduced 5 rupee sachets of hand wash distributed through half a million small outlets such as public toilets and railway stations.

For me this is a great example of disruptive growth because the agency and marketing team could simply have focused on fighting for market share and launched another ad campaign. However, as Ganapathy Balagopalan, Head of Strategic Planning, Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai, notes in the WARC report,

“In the hyper-competitive environment that we are in, the trick for brands is to do something tangible for consumers that’s useful, relevant and helpful.”

And while the ‘Savlon: Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks’ campaign clearly has had a short-term impact on sales and market share, I would also note that by engaging children directly it is building equity for the distant future as well. Even today’s Millennial generation is willing to admit it often uses the same brands its parents did.

The only doubt I have about the Savlon case study is the causal linkage between giving chalk sticks to children at school and encouraging wider use at home. I cannot help wondering if the physical availability and affordability of 5 rupee sachets in 500,000 sales outlets might not have had more impact on sales than distributing chalk sticks to children in 5,200 schools. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.

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  1. Munira, August 09, 2018
    I think this is a brilliant idea. The chalk stick study will enhance word PD mouth among the children and the teachers. As we know, children may have impact on the section making process of the parents. If the children keep talking about it at home, parents may decide to give it a try and buy the 5 rupee sachets. It is definitely a new idea and can help them to build the penetration further among the less affluent families. 

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