Consumer goods maker Hindustan Unilever Ltd is on a drive with purpose. For the last few years, the maker of Dove, Lux, Pepsodent and Lifebuoy is increasingly pushing its marquee brands for social causes, which in turn is paying well for the company.

Hygiene message

For example, Lifebuoy has grown to be the largest soap brand in the country with 17 per cent market share, up from 14 per cent in 2013. HUL conducts several campaigns with Lifebuoy to promote healthy hygiene habits, with ‘Roti Reminder’ during the Kumbh Mela being the most popular ad campaign wherein for every meal ordered during the mela, the first roti carried the branded message “Lifebuoy se haath dhoye kya?” (Did you wash your hands with Lifebuoy?). The words were heat stamped onto the baked roti, without the use of ink, to ensure it was completely edible.

Similarly, in October its ketchup and jam brand Kissan overtook Nestle’s Maggi in terms of volume with 22 per cent share versus 18 per cent. HUL conducts an annual initiative called Kissanpur that encourages children to plant tomatoes in their backyards. Last year, 80,000 children participated in the initiative. About 2,000 residents in localities across Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi participated in a 15-day long event to promote Surf Excel’s ‘Clean India’ campaign.

According to Paul Polman, CEO of HUL’s parent company Unilever, the global brands that have led the way on sustainable living or are associated with social causes are achieving above average growth, with high single- and double-digit sales over the past three years.

Consumer demands “Consumers are increasingly demanding responsible business and responsible brands…Our experience is that brands, whose purpose and products respond to that demand, are delivering stronger and faster growth. These brands accounted for half the company’s growth in 2014 and grew at twice the rate compared to the rest of the business,” Polman said in London last month.