#PRAwards 2021 highlight: Lifebuoy combats air pollution in Vietnam by humanising PM2.5

When it comes to hygiene brands, Lifebuoy is not a stranger to the scene. Having a presence in nearly 60 countries, Lifebuoy aims to make a difference by creating quality, affordable products and promoting healthy hygiene habits.

In Vietnam, Lifebuoy took upon itself to raise awareness about an invisible but potentially deadly air pollutant, PM2.5 (fine particulate matter with the size of 2.5 micrometres). This comes as the brand found that Vietnam was one of the top 11 countries in 2016 to be listed as a country that exceeded the level of pollution safety limit, in a research conducted by Yale University.

Armed with that insight, Lifebuoy and its PR agency Biz-Eyes, looked to alert the public about this pollutant while promoting its Lifebuoy Nature range offering, which is formulated to prevent skin infection issues – especially those caused by PM2.5.

The “Lifebuoy Jarvis Y2” campaign was well-received and helped the brand snag the gold award for best PR-led integrated communications at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s PR Awards 2021. Let’s take a closer look at how it was executed.

Challenge

With air quality in Vietnam’s key cities at a concerning level, Lifebuoy felt responsible for alerting consumers about the threat of pollutant PM2.5.

However, the problem was, most consumers do not realise or believe that they were directly harmed by this type of pollutant. Since PM2.5 and its cumulative consequences are invisible to the naked eyes, the general public doesn’t regard this fatal threat as it should be. Misconceptions such as “PM2.5 only existed in dusty industrial environments” or “my clothing is enough to protect me from PM2.5” also play a part in diverting the threat. However, at 1% of the human pore size, PM2.5 can easily slip through fabric fibres and reach the skin and respiratory systems, harming consumers’ health.

Hence, Lifebuoy set out to create awareness about the serious impact of PM2.5. The brand also took the chance to generate demand for Lifebuoy Nature range as the first pollution-detox body wash in Vietnam, while fortifying its core proposition as a hygiene brand that prioritises consumers’ health.

Lifebuoy wanted to initiate conversations about the impact of PM2.5, particularly on skin health and general wellbeing. It also wanted to build positive product association as a top-of-mind solution when it comes to pollution concern or skin infection.

Strategy

Together with its PR agency Biz-Eyes, Lifebuoy created the campaign “Lifebuoy Jarvis Y2”. The key message of the campaign is that PM2.5 is an invisible killer that is dangerous to health, and to encourage consumers to join hands with Lifebuoy in its “Detox PM2.5 movement”.

To preserve its image as a positive, trusted hygiene brand, Lifebuoy avoided fear-mongering as a tactic. Instead of painting a grim vision of PM2.5’s negative impacts on the environment and humans, the brand opted to craft a relatable story yet informative through PR in combination with other channels to engage the whole country and motivate them to become a hero themselves in the fight against PM2.5.

The campaign was split into three phases:

1. Set up the foundation of change

As a hygiene brand, issuing information on pollution issues might risk incurring a PR crisis if not done properly. Hence, Lifebuoy echoed opinions and professional voices from pollution experts, which is a credible source on the issue.

The brand also set up partnerships with NGOs, NPOs, student association, and government agencies, and held collaborated, non-branded conversation around PM2.5’s health impact, with a clear call-to-action: “It’s time to #detoxfromPM2.5 for Vietnam!”

2. Turn information into impactful stories at real-life touchpoints

While great at issuing authoritative/credible information, experts are not the best at reaching the mass. This is where social channels can captivate audience’s attention and PR can explain the matter to them in great detail. Although invisible, PM2.5 is practically everywhere, on our usual morning walk, sitting on top of our freshly grilled BBQ, or even behind closed windows and doors. Thus, shedding a special light turns this matter visible with a friendly approach: an actual wake-up call at the audience’s daily touchpoints, such as regularly visited social community pages, travel influencer profiles, or a busy street.

3. Establish and own #DetoxPM2.5 platform as a meaning “brand do”

Simply raising awareness about PM2.5 without concrete actions is not in line with Lifebuoy's brand belief. Whilst effective, Lifebuoy Nature range is not the sole and long term solution to the pollutant threat. Thus, the brand partnered with credible associations to plant trees across Vietnam, to plant a novel three-tier tree wall in crowded cities with limited space.

Users can contribute to the initiative through circulating key information about PM2.5 within their social networks. With every post/share, Lifebuoy matched it with a donation to the public fund for 30,000 trees planted across Vietnam.

Execution

For the first phase of the campaign, Lifebuoy focused on highlighting health, environment and social issues. An example is sharing how PamAir, an air pollution tracking app, supported a travel blogger to ride across Vietnam and recorded low air quality in major cities. The sentiment is later echoed in PR articles to further publicise this environmental concern.

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With the previous phase as food-for-thought, Lifebuoy’s next move was using PR to tackle misperceptions about PM2.5. To deliver this, Lifebuoy first created Baby Dust (Be Bui) as a creative visual approach to portrait PM2.5 as a real-life demonstration. At 6kg (which is akin to the weight of pollution particles consumers contract in a year) this playful character can be seen anywhere. This meme-like approach sparked interest among the audience, leading them to Lifebuoy’s PR stories which elaborate with scientific-based information.

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lifebuoy prawards 2

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From positive responses to Baby Dust, Lifebuoy leveraged this to layer on with a powerful visual demonstration: the brand collaborated with a fashion designer to introduce a clothing line inspired by PM2.5: “The Unwearable Collection”.

Using various garment texture and forms, the design highlighted different sources of pollution particles to illustrate how common and easy it is to be exposed to this threat in daily life. With its striking visual and prime selection of exhibition venue, the collection gathered lots of attention from the general public. It also fuelled media coverage and discussion among audience groups. This created yet another opportunity for Lifebuoy to reach out to multiple audiences and explain PM2.5 and its product line in further detail via PR materials.

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The third phase emphasised how users can take action in detoxing PM2.5: by walking instead of riding, sharing rides, or planting trees. Through these steps, the Baby Dust character can be converted into the clean “little white cloud”. The phase also saw macro and micro KOLs join forces to lead the movement through inspiring and relatable content. Not only did this stir up interest from audiences, the movement was also uplifted by PR efforts to optimise this into a trend with #DetoxFromPM2.5. Furthermore, user-generated content from the public was also collected and utilised to further amplify the campaign.

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Results

Through intensive usage of PR, the campaign incited a positive change wave in the target public, directing them towards better health and environmental concerns. It generated 585k total interactions, attracted over 39.3k unique audience, and created 116,439 buzzes with 6,878 buzzes for user-generated content.

The proficient combination of content, format and channels acquired 104,771 buzz in a month. In terms of communication value, the campaign achieved approximately US$148,592 with ROI reaching 374% for the brand. Lifebuoy also successfully launched its Nature range as an effective solution to detox skins from PM2.5. Environmentally, 30,000 trees were planted as a forest shield against PM2.5 and over three tree walls were set up in crowded cities from September 2019 to February 2020 for a greener, healthier Vietnam.