In the world of advertising, there are campaigns that defy conventional wisdom and revolutionize industries. One such example is the remarkable success story of OMO, a laundry detergent brand that managed to increase its revenue by a staggering 10 times in the Asian market through a campaign that went against the very nature of its industry. This campaign, centered around the slogan "Dirt is Good," serves as a testament to the power of counterintuitive advertising and the art of challenging norms.
Originating in the late '90s in the United States, the "Dirt is Good" insight became a cornerstone of the OMO brand's positioning across various markets. Despite having different names like Surf, Rinzo, or Breeze in different countries, all these products were unified under a single philosophy: "Dirt is Good."
However, when this philosophy was extended to the developing countries and emerging markets of Asia, challenges arose that Unilever, the parent company of OMO, hadn't anticipated.
In countries like Vietnam, where the perception of cleanliness is intertwined with prosperity, health, and hygiene, convincing mothers that "Dirt is Good" was an uphill battle. Unlike in the Western world, where the narrative revolves around skill-building through getting dirty, in Asian cultures, cleanliness is seen as a reflection of traditional values such as care, protection, and harmony within the family.
In Asia, dirt is associated with negative connotations such as poverty, disease, and even death. This was in stark contrast to the "Dirt is Good" philosophy that OMO was trying to convey. OMO faced the formidable task of redefining the value of dirt in the eyes of its target audience – mothers. The objective was to make dirt endearing, relatable, and even positive.
OMO embarked on a journey to transform the way mothers perceive dirt in Asian markets. The strategy was not only to challenge conventional notions but also to create a purpose behind getting dirty. OMO aimed to connect this purpose to the deeply ingrained cultural values of Asian societies, which center around family bonds, sacrifice, and caring for loved ones.
The breakthrough lay in attaching a purpose to getting dirty that resonated with Asian values. OMO reframed "Dirt is Good" as a way for children to experience these values – to learn, grow, and bond with family and community. By embracing dirt, parents were allowing their children to fully immerse themselves in life's experiences and lessons.
OMO understood that mothers in Asian markets still believed in the negative connotations of dirt. The challenge was to make getting dirty more understandable and acceptable for these mothers. OMO delved deep into the psychology of mothers, conducting interviews, and collaborating with psychologists to understand the cultural context and the underlying emotions associated with cleanliness and dirt.
The "Dirt is Good" campaign was not a one-size-fits-all solution. It required tailoring the message to suit the nuances of each Asian market. OMO's messaging highlighted cultural values like unity, sacrifice, gratitude, courage, and determination. The campaign reframed "Dirt is Good" to represent these values and their impact on children's growth.
OMO's annual campaigns typically revolve around three central themes/objectives, all united under the overarching concept of "Dirt is Good":
Introducing new products with innovative benefits
Launching major media campaigns or activations during the summer, aimed at allowing children to experience the idea that "Dirt is Good"
Dominating the Tet season with the color red and the narrative of "Doing Good," accompanied by significant promotional efforts to boost sales. Through Tet marketing activities in Vietnam, OMO has become one of the most closely associated brands with family gatherings during Vietnamese Tet.
Several OMO print advertisements have run in recent years, all centered around the theme "Dirt is Good." These visually engaging ads have effectively communicated the brand's core message.
Out of Home
Highlighted by captivating outdoor campaigns, OMO's visibility has extended through various years. Billboards, such as those at Tao Dan Park, have visually reinforced the brand's message and commitment to cleanliness and innovation.
Tet Nguyen Dan, the sacred time for millions of Vietnamese families to reunite, is especially significant for parents and grandparents awaiting the return of their children and grandchildren from distant homes. To them, spring hasn't truly arrived until the family gathers. However, the journey back home for Tet remains challenging and arduous, often preventing complete and joyous family reunions.
Understanding this sentiment, OMO's "Embracing Spring – Tet Full of Love" program has been an annual tradition for over a decade during Tet Nguyen Dan. Its purpose is to make the journey back home for Tet easier and more comfortable for the millions of Vietnamese who return from faraway places, with the assistance of young students.
The activation titled "Tet is About Family" aligns with the ethos of Tet and the importance of familial bonds.
Within the framework of the international strategic collaboration program "Get as Dirty as You Like" between OMO and the renowned English football club Manchester United, several initiatives have aimed to provide outdoor play spaces and opportunities for carefree, messy play to help children develop skills such as observation, creativity, dexterity, patience, focus, team spirit, and to spread the meaningful message that "Getting dirty is okay."
Children will have the chance to visit the legendary Old Trafford Stadium in Vietnam. Mothers and children will enjoy a special version of Old Trafford Stadium, explore the Museum of Manchester United with its tactical room, changing room area, tunnel to the pitch for players, post-match press conference room, and more. For the first time in Vietnam, children will learn about Manchester United through different eras and admire items directly sent from England, including player jerseys, David Beckham's match shoes, scarves embroidered with the names of legends, and the championship cup made from an OMO soccer ball.
With the message "Get as Dirty as You Like," along with other meaningful activities, the "OMO – Manchester United Summer Camp" will provide children with opportunities to play, explore their surroundings, and develop a wide range of essential skills in a comfortable outdoor environment.
Legendary figure Gary Pallister stated, "Encouraging children to engage in sports from a young age helps develop habits of athleticism, dynamism, and self-confidence in life. Additionally, football is a sport that evokes unique emotions for many fans worldwide, from adults to children, including those in Vietnam. This game also offers moments of relaxation and physical activity to develop physical prowess, dexterity, coordination, teamwork, etc. With this year's 'OMO – Manchester United Summer Camp,' I hope to offer children the chance to learn basic football skills, encourage carefree play, getting as dirty as they like, and leave positive, beautiful impressions during my time here."
Bui Thi Thanh Huyen, representative of OMO brand, expressed, "Play plays an essential role in aiding children's comprehensive development, both physically and mentally. In 2014, in collaboration with Manchester United, OMO brought diverse, internationally-reaching activities to children as part of the 'Get as Dirty as You Like' project, including the OMO – Manchester United Summer Camp. Through the activities of the 'OMO – Manchester United Summer Camp' and the message 'Get as Dirty as You Like,' OMO hopes to provide a wholesome playground for children to develop holistically, encompassing physical, intellectual, and spiritual aspects. Above all, this offers comfortable outdoor play opportunities for Vietnamese children."
Viral clip of OMO and Son Tung.
To measure the long-term impact of the campaign, the article will analyze based on the overall results over the deployment time in the market rather than the results of individual activities.
Naturally, market share is influenced by many factors beyond communication (distribution, display). Therefore, to assess this, the Brand Health Report by a reputable market research entity, Millward Brown, will be used.
In public communication tools, advertising plays a vital role in building and reinforcing brand attributes in the minds of consumers. OMO's advertising objectives are to convince consumers about (1) the message that "Dirt is a positive part of life," (2) believing in OMO's "superiority compared to other products," and the ultimate score is (3) the attribute "Thoroughly clean clothes." Among them, the most fundamental yet crucial attribute for purchase decisions is the ability to "Thoroughly clean clothes."
After 6 years of running campaigns across various fronts in Asia, the brand continues to experience miraculous growth:
Sales in Asia increased tenfold. (Source: Unilever's sales data)
Became the leading brand in Asian countries, with a market share of up to 70%. (Source: Nielsen's sales data)
The score of the brand attribute "Believe that Dirt is a positive part of life" continues to rise. In some markets, up to 60-80% of the target consumers agree with this statement. (Source: Millward Brown's Brand Health & Attributes)
Brand loyalty has grown beyond the market average by 30% since the product launch. (Source: Millward Brown's Brand Health & Attributes)
This concept has brought positive benefits, from government changes to allocate more time for children to play (Vietnam) to an increasing number of parks for children (Vietnam, Thailand), and more.
According to Millward Brown's Brand Dynamics report, indices related to commitment and loyalty to the brand (Brand Bonding / Loyalty) have been consistently growing in all markets since the "Dirt is Good" campaign. Although measurements have only been conducted since 2008, OMO has continued to experience consistent growth since then.
In Vietnam, Brand Bonding increased from 66% to 74%, in Indonesia from 38% to 52%, and in India from 22% to 24%. The Asia region in general – with growth targets set from 10 to 15% – has achieved an impressive average growth of 30% for a brand.
The score of the attribute "Believe that dirt is a positive part of life" has consistently improved, indicating that the belief in OMO's brand philosophy is becoming stronger each year.
Depending on each market, 60-80% of the target consumers agree with this sentiment. The initial goal was to have 2/10 surveyed women agree with this statement, but the results far exceeded expectations, with 6-8/10 women in most target markets agreeing with the outcome.
What makes OMO more successful than anything is the soul of marketing, the cultural imprints that OMO has created in changing children's lives across Asia.
"Dirt is Good" is truly an emotionally charged campaign in a fast-paced, fiercely competitive consumer goods market, where previous ads were all about "atomic / energy-efficient clean" images in laboratories. However, advertising is not just about presenting scientific results and functional benefits; it's also about sharing impressive messages, understanding consumers, and conveying emotional values to them.
With the annual brand value growing tenfold since the early days of the campaign, OMO "Dirt is Good" has become the largest laundry brand in Vietnam and across Asian countries.
However, what makes OMO even more successful, the essence of marketing, is the cultural imprints that OMO has created in changing children's lives across Asia – with more and more Asian mothers changing their perspective, recognizing dirt as a positive part of life so that their children can play freely and develop.
When an idea is rejected due to "culture," the key to unlocking it lies in "culture" itself. "Dirt is bad" is something that OMO fought to eliminate in Asia, and by understanding what Asian mothers value, OMO has turned dirt into a positive thing for them and their children.