Unilever Dirt is Good campaign that delivered 900% sales boost

By Joseph Ekeng

Almost 20 years after Unilever launched the popular “Dirt is Good” campaign, the multinational consumer goods company has commended the marketing initiative for being one of the reasons why its laundry brands have been so successful around the world.

According to market analysts,  “Dirt is Good” has been a successful marketing campaign as it has resonated with parents around the world. The campaign was launched in early 2000, and it has since become a global phenomenon, with the message of encouraging children to play and get dirty.

Tati Lindenberg, vice-president of marketing at Dirt Is Good, explained that the platform was created to unify all of Unilever’s detergent brands with one key message, that dirt isn’t something we have to put up with, instead it should be embraced as a life well lived.

Lindenberg believes this upending of the usual message from laundry brands is what resonates with customers. But it seems dirt is not only good, it is also profitable. This is according to Unilever, which has seen a 900% increase in sales since launching its Dirt Is Good platform for laundry brands such as Persil in the UK and OMO in Nigeria, Brazil and China in 2004. Indeed, the global platform has boosted sales from €400m (£354m) a year two decades ago to €4bn (£3.54bn) a year today, According to the leading FMCG firm.

Why the campaign has been successful

Analysts believe that the campaign has been successful for several reasons, including its emotional appeal, its focus on the needs of the target audience, and its ability to connect with customers on a deeper level.

The campaign focuses on the idea that children need to play and explore the world around them, even if it means getting dirty.

This message resonates with parents who are concerned about their children’s health and well-being. By promoting the idea that dirt and outdoor play are good for children, the campaign taps into a deep-seated emotional need that many parents have.

Lindenberg also explained that another reason why the “Dirt is Good” campaign has been successful is that it focuses on the needs of the target audience.  But beyond that, Unilever recognizes that parents are the primary decision-makers when it comes to purchasing household products, and they are also concerned about the health and well-being of their children.

“The campaign targets these concerns by promoting the idea that playing outdoors and getting dirty is an important part of a healthy childhood,” Ganiyu Olowu, a Lagos-based brand expert explained.

Speaking further, he stressed that the campaign connects with customers on a deeper level. “Unilever has created a brand that stands for more than just a product. The “Dirt is Good” campaign is about promoting a lifestyle and a philosophy that encourages children to explore the world around them.

“By promoting this message, Unilever has created a brand that customers can identify with on a personal level,” he said.

Furthermore, the campaign has been successful because it is adaptable to different cultures and regions. Unilever has tailored the message to suit the needs and preferences of customers in different parts of the world.  For example, in China, the campaign was adapted to promote outdoor play and exploration in urban environments.

Impact on Nigeria’s market

The “Dirt is Good” campaign has been particularly successful in Nigeria, where the company has seen strong growth in its laundry products.  According to research by Statista, Unilever’s laundry products have experienced consistent growth in Nigeria, with sales increasing fast.

In a media interview, Yaw Nsarkoh, the former Executive Vice President of Unilever Ghana and Nigeria, and now an Independent Marketer, attributed the success of the “Dirt is Good” campaign to the company’s focus on creating brands that resonate with local consumers. “We are building brands that are very locally relevant, that speak to consumers in their language and their cultural context,” he said.

Nsarkoh also emphasized the importance of innovation in driving growth in the Nigerian market.  “We’re constantly looking for new ways to innovate and provide value to consumers,” he said. “And that’s really what has driven our growth over the last few years.”

And in Nigeria, the campaign has been designed to create awareness and promote sustainable practices, particularly among children. For example, last year, Omo launched an educational campaign across schools to engage and educate children on plastic recycling through its Dirt For Good campaign, a holistic approach towards reducing waste, promoting sustainability and creating better communities. This adaptability has enabled the campaign to resonate with customers and continue to remain relevant almost 20 years after it was launched.


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