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Lifebuoy in India: Product Life Cycle

Symbiosis Institute of Management

In 1931, Unilever set up its first Indian
subsidiary, Hindustan Vanaspati
Manufacturing Company, followed by Lever
Brothers India Limited (1933) and United
Traders Limited (1935). These three
companies merged to form HUL in November
Lifebuoy was introduced byLever Brothersin
1895 in England. Originally a carbolic soap
containing phenol, different varieties were
later introduced without the medicinal carbolic
smell, such as the coral-colored Lifebuoy
during the late 1950s and Lifebuoy Minty
Refresher in 1966.

Lifebuoy, for long, has been associated with a big, red,
chunky bar of soap that keeps one healthy. The heritage
brand, which has been around for more than a 100 years
now (the first container with Lifebuoy soaps landed on
Indian shores in 1895 at Bombay Harbour), was once
touted to be the soap that was everything male and
sporty. It has now become a family brand.
Lord Lever Hume looked out of the window from his
home & saw the familiar life saver in port sunlight & the
word LIFEBUOY flashed through his mind & he named the
soap thus.

Current Scenario
The Lifebuoy brand aims to change the hygiene behaviour of 1
Billion consumers across Asia, Africa and Latin America, by
promoting the benefits of handwashing with soap at key
occasions, thereby helping to reduce respiratory infections and
diarrhoeal disease, the worlds two biggest causes of child
HUL's Lifebuoy became the first Indian brand to have a special
postal cover which was released on the occasion of the World
Health Day in recognition of the phenomenal work done by
Lifebuoy for initiating and assiduously implementing the socially
beneficial movement.
SLOGAN : Healthy hoga Hindustan;
Lifebuoy hai jaha tandurusti hai waha

Lifebuoy Swasthya Chetna


Product Life Cycle

Introduction Stage (1895 - 1935)

PLC Stages


Most expensive stage

Small size of market
Low but increasing
High customer
acquisition cost
Innovation cost
A little competition

Introduction Stage (1895 - 1935)

Unilever exported Lifebuoy in 1895

Promised to kill germs and keep the body healthy
Captured a huge market share in rural India
Limited advertising efforts
Advertising focused on hard working, savings
minded and economic class

Tandarusti ki Raksha karta hai Lifebuoy

Growth Stage (1935 - 1970)

PLC Stages


Strong growth in sales

and profit
Benefits from
economies of scale of
More investment in
promotional activities
Maximum take away
from the market

Growth Stage (1935 - 1970)

Contributing a major share in companies profit
Line extension of Lifebuoy Special failed due to
its preoccupied image of health care
the company ranked one among the top five
private sector firms in terms of sales
turnover of INR 932.8 million
Illiterate rural market remembered the product as
Red Soap

Maturity Stage (1970 - 1990)

PLC Stage


Established product
Aim is to maintain the
market share
Highest competition
Wise investment in
marketing is required
Product modification is
needed for

Maturity Stage (1970 - 1990)

Growing sale but at slower pace, comparatively
More choices in the market like P&G, Godrej and
Introduction of colour TV Revolution in advertising
Nirmas aggressive marketing strategies by 1977
made it the second-largest volume seller and a
potential rival to HLL
more value prepositions in the market
High growth rate in service sector changed
consumer needs
Higher income level Preference to expensive soaps

Decline (1990 - 2002)

PLC Stages


Market start to shrink

Saturation of market
Presence of
Profit can be made by
switching to less
costly production

Decline (1990 - 2002)

Nirma Bath offered more value for money in rural
Sales for carbolic soap start diminishing
HLL fell from 69% in 1992 to 45% in 1996

STP of Lifebuoy

Personal Care Soap, Hand Sanitizer, Hand
Wash, bodywash

Target Group
All households to provide a 100% antibacterial soap for complete protection
Primarily Rural Public

Lifebuoy's goal is to provide affordable and
accessible hygiene and health solutions

Competition of

Post decline: Extension in Lifecycle

Comeback post 2004
Changed shape of bar soap : new curved shape |
easy grip and modern look
Change in communication from 'You will be healthy
if you use Lifebuoy' to 'You will not fall ill if you use
Lifebuoy or the fast action germ kill soap.
Introduced new variants of product : Line extension
Gradual shift towards personal care products
Started targeting complete family instead of blue
collared man
Started CSR activities and campaigns to promote
healthy habits
Aggressive promotion
Started targeting higher segment of Indian market

Lifebuoy Products

Product Line

Competitors of lifebuoy
Major Competitors: Dettol and Nirma
Introduced as
disinfectant soap
King of rural
No such claim
More durable
Multiple Taglines
Follower : share
of 29.1 %. *

*Data of 2012

Introduced as
antiseptic liquid
Focused on urban
Not so much aggressive
marketing campaign
Indias 3rd most trusted
Less durable in
100% sure tagline
Leader -hand wash
category: 53 per cent *

Famous Advertisements:
Old ad : showing man playing
and working hard
Latest ads :
Bunty washing hand
Color changing Handwash
5 times Hand
wash :'Lifebuoy-Way of Life'
CSR related ads :
Chamki advertisement
Thesgora Village
Save the child Campaign ads

Promotional activities

Introduced Global Handwash day campaigne

Kumbh Mela Promotional activity (2013) ,
Swasthya Chetna Program ,
Promotion by Movie Krish and Hulk related ads
Recently HUL comes on board Swacch Bharat,
aims to promote health & hygiene

Indian Soap Market 2015


Expansion of economy increasing income
levels- consumers spending more on different
Decline in interest rates from 18% to 8% consumers started investing in consumer
durables like automobiles, mobile phones
Profit growth of 22.42% to Rs 1310 crores in 2000
compared to Rs 1070 crores in 1999 but marginal
growth of 4.5% to Rs 10,604 crores as compared
to Rs 10,142 crores in previous year.


Evolving needs of consumers- Sony, Nestle,

Dell etc did well but not lifebuoy

Purchasing power of middle class increasingtendency to buy expensive ones
Indias youth population around 65% of the total
population- lifebuoy failed to target them
Sony has variants in its products catering for different
age groups- walkman for youth, home theatre for
families whereas lifebuoy failed to do
Problems in Rural marketing- lack to mass media
like TVs, radio

Easy duplicity of the Brand Lifebuoy
Fake brands like likeboy and lijabath came
into existence portrayed the same red color
Money spent by Lifebuoy on wide range of
products- profits reaped low due to lack to
effective promotions for those products


Increasing income level
increasing customer needs- lifebuoy
increased its variants
In the type of soaps

Appropriate Advertising techniques instead of
just advertising as a red color soap must work on
packaging , designs and shapes
Must make more efforts to position itself as more than
just a health and hygiene category product using
rigorous advertising
To increase the purchase intent among youngsters,
promote it in association with a young brand
ambassador like Virat Kohli
Educating villagers against brand duplicity

First soap to use Carbolic Acid Gave it a red colour and
strong, medical scent
Entered Indian stores in mid 1890s using plague with a
promise to keep one healthy
Strong positioning in health and hygiene platform with no
substitute product in that platform, enabled it to capture a huge
market share in the rural markets of India.
Completed more than 110 years of life cycle. The brand still
enjoys a strong consumer faith in FMCG markets
High consumer awareness for the brand of Lifebuoy

Strong Brand Recall

Any red soap was considered to be Lifebuoy (specific
to rural consumers)
Most popular soap in rural markets (70% of sales
came from rural markets)

Excellent brand visibility and distribution
Excellent campaigns to enable positioning in
Health and Hygiene platform
Wide portfolio of Lifebuoy brand Soaps,
Sanitizers, Hand Wash

Lower market penetration (specifically soap)
in urban areas as compared to rural areas
Initially positioned as a masculine soap, which
was eventually turned as a family soap
Not been perceived as a beauty soap and is
mainly used just for hand washing based
on its campaigns
Wide range of products but not ample
Should resist doing bully advertisements

Increasing mass communication such as TV, Radio
etc. in rural areas to further increase reach of lifebuoy
Product diversification for high-end customers
Should focus on enhancing design and shape of the
Packaging can be improved
Should invest more in targeting the youth as well

Can put in more such efforts in innovation

Faced with strong competition- Dettol, Nirma, etc.
Infringement : Easy to duplicate on the basis of color which is
used for brand recall. Eg : Likeboy
Changing income patterns
Campaigns maybe wrongly perceived
Strong positioning of a health and hygiene category soap

It is difficult to increase sales in other categories such as Lifebuoy

moisture plus, lemon fresh, mild care, cool fresh

Thank you!