Across the globe, many children with cleft lips (a birth deformity) don't go to school or drop out due to the social stigma attached to the deformity. Like any other child, they want to play with others and enjoy life, but this deformity keeps them in hiding. In India alone, more than 35,000 babies are born with a cleft every year. However, a simple 45-minute-long surgery can completely transform their lives. Taking a cue from this, Himalaya Drug Company launched a new campaign - Ek Nayi Muskaan - as part of its social impact initiative - 'Muskaan'.
Through Muskaan, Himalaya Lip Care has been creating awareness about cleft lip and palate and supporting free cleft treatment for underprivileged children. This is in partnership with Smile Train - an international children's charity that supports 100 per cent free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care for children, globally.
"Lips are the conduit to the expression of one's emotions and confidence and a cleft condition hampers both. Through Muskaan we want to ensure that more and more children benefit from the simple cleft corrective surgery," informs Sarfraz Rumane, general manager, marketing - Lip Care, Hair Care and Oral Care at The Himalaya Drug Company.
'Ek Nayi Muskaan' is a heart-warming story of Munmun, an eight-year-old girl who lives in a village near Lucknow. It has been conceptualised and created by Roadrunner Productions. The heart-rending song that plays in the background has been sung by actor/singer Raghuvir Yadav while the music has been composed by Pankaj Awasthi. The new film is a progression to the previous Muskaan campaign (launched in 2016) where the brand showcased the story of 14-year-old Jyothi, from a small village in Karnataka.
"Cleft awareness has always been the focus of our initiative. We have been supporting this cause since 2015 with the Muskaan campaign," informs Rumane.
"With our first campaign, launched in the year 2016-17, we were able to get over 133 crore impressions. We also undertook a Karnataka-focused, TV-led awareness initiative in partnership with ETV Kannada, which helped us identify over 200 kids suffering from cleft lip," Rumane adds.
This year, the campaign focuses on Uttar Pradesh. The reason the brand chose UP is because of the high number of cleft incidences in the region and a huge backlog. The brand has also partnered with News18 in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to help identify kids suffering from cleft lip.
Telling a human tale
Lip care is a Rs 252 crore market in urban India, growing at 12 per cent y-o-y and Himalaya Lip Care is one of the largest selling brands in its category. The brand's portfolio includes - balms (Himalaya Lip Balm, Strawberry Lip Balm and Cocoa Butter Lip Balm), Shine range (Strawberry Shine Lip Care, Peach Shine Lip Care and Litchi Shine Lip Care), and the Repair range (Sun Protect Orange Lip Care, Natural Soft Vanilla Lip Care, Rich Cocoa Butter Lip Care, and Natural Moisturising Lip Butter). Amongst these, Strawberry Shine Lip Care is the highest selling variant. For lip care, the brand caters to teenage girls and early college-goers.
Rumane explains that the brand adopts a two-pronged approach:- one - creating awareness through mass media so that more patients come forward to avail of the surgery and two - directly supporting free cleft surgeries.
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"The brand contributes for the surgeries from the sale of every Himalaya Lip Care product," Rumane states.
There was a lot of groundwork done before the campaign was designed. The brand and the creative team spent a lot of time understanding the kids' struggle and that of their families and only after multiple deliberations, the campaign was finally ideated.
The brand chose to roll out the campaign based on a real story.
"When we did our on-ground work we realised that some of the children with cleft lip don't even step out of their homes because of the stigma attached to it. This gave us an insight that cleft is not only about the physical deformity but there's also a huge mental impact," shares Rahul Bharti, creative director, Roadrunner Productions.
Shooting the film took over a month. To keep it authentic, the team shot in Munmun's village. "We realised that there was no better way to tell a story than with a real one. Real-life stories always have a strong connect with viewers," says Bharti.
However, shooting with Munmun was a bit tricky. At first, it was overwhelming for her to see the camera and the crew around her. But the team spent a fair amount of time with her in order to make her comfortable. Her parents cooperated too.
The brand believes that all mediums are equally powerful in getting the message across. While platforms such as TV/radio help in scaling the reach for this campaign, digital platforms help drive conversations and engagements, thereby, raising awareness for this cause.
Joining the 'reality' bandwagon?
Lately, a number of brands have rolled out communications inspired by true stories. Vicks recently released a digital film titled #TouchOfCare narrating the story of a girl named Nisha who suffers from Ichthyosis (a skin disorder). So, we asked the experts if 'Ek Nayi Muskaan' will stand out in the clutter.
According to Rahul Ghosh, senior creative director and senior vice president - Contract Advertising, India, a lot of brands are speaking the language of standing for something that is beyond just the brand benefit. In that scenario, if a brand finds a battle worth fighting for and a story that is around the world of the product, then the sound of victory is so much sweeter. As a lip-care brand, Himalaya Lip Care wants to stand for bringing a smile to one's lips. So this activation perfectly dovetails into their agenda.
He adds, "In a category dominated by product benefits, it certainly is a stand-out story to tell. But I feel the intention of this campaign was probably not to move stock from shelves. It was probably to make a place in the heart rather than the head of the consumers."
Deepak Singh, chief creative officer, YAAP, finds it a nice way of integrating the product by not talking only about the product.
He says, "People know what Himalaya is all about, so the approach to the idea is interesting and will touch peoples' hearts. The campaign is nicely shot and the music is also done very well. I like the lyrics too. I just felt it could have been shorter and crisper."
Here are a few campaigns released by various brands to create awareness about cleft lip treatment:-
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