Shreyas Kulkarni

When Lifebuoy's 'handwashing' ambassador tells you to use another soap

The soap brand from Unilever stresses on the importance of washing your hands frequently with any soap that you may have.

We live in turbulent times. The world is in the midst of its worst public health crisis in a century - in the form of COVID-19, and there's no vaccine in sight. According to health experts, the nearest viable vaccine is at least 16-19 months away.

While scientists continue to work on a vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) is stressing on the importance of precautions to halt the spread of the virus, which is now officially a pandemic.

In India, till March 23, the virus has resulted in eight deaths and infected 450-plus people. Eight union territories (UT) and 19 states have gone into lockdown, with only essential services being permitted to work (remain open). And, from midnight (March 24), the government has also barred the operation of domestic airlines as a precautionary measure.

On a personal level, public health officials have repeatedly stressed on the importance of social distancing. Maintaining a distance of three feet from anyone who's coughing or sneezing, staying indoors and not leaving your house, unless it is an emergency, and washing your hands frequently with an alcohol-based sanitiser, or soap and water.

Brands, too, have joined the government in spreading the message. Only yesterday (March 23), a video posted on Bollywood actress Kajol’s Twitter account caught our eye.

The actress is the 'handwashing' ambassador, Lifebuoy soap, which is marketed by Unilever. In the video, she stresses on the importance of handwashing as a potent precaution against the Coronavirus and then tells the viewers to use any soap that they have. This, despite her being seen in advertisements for Lifebuoy.

The post said, “In times like these, the only thing that matters is yours and your family's health. A soap, any soap, is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And yes, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser when outdoors. My appeal to you all is to take the necessary precautions and stay safe!”

The fact that Kajol, a Lifebuoy ambassador, is telling people to use any soap, because safety is above brand preference, goes a long way in explaining the seriousness of the current situation.

And, this isn’t the first time when the Unilever soap brand has gone the distance to put people’s safety above itself. In a print ad that first appeared in the Mumbai edition of Hindustan Times, it urged people to practise correct handwashing technique in light of the Coronavirus outbreak in China.

Lifebuoy print ad
Lifebuoy print ad

The print ad caught many people’s eye because it mentioned its competitors, which only emphasised how serious the brand was about its consumers’ health, than the sale of its product.

Also, social media has a funny way of remembering things that took place years ago. With the focus on handwashing as an effective precaution against the virus, a Lifebuoy ad from 2013 has resurfaced on social media.

In it, the protagonist Bunty, a school student, kept rubbing his hands with a soap for at least a minute, while his friends did the same in 20 seconds with a Lifebuoy soap.

Cut to 2020, and most, if not all, public health authorities are stressing on the fact that you must take as much time as you can to wash your hands, and as frequently as possible.

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