Brand Saga: Savlon - The anti-septic that healed without stinging

Sneha Yadav
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Savlon advertising journey

Social Samosa takes a look at the Savlon Advertising Journey, understanding the core DNA of the brand's marketing fabric. Presenting to you the brand that heals without stinging or that's how I remember it.

Fernando Machado, CMO, Burger King and the jury president of Creative Effectiveness at Cannes Lions 2018 had stated, “There's a clear leap between idea and specific result. We ended up awarding a campaign that's not a campaign. It's a solution. It solves a real problem”. This was the moment of glory for ITC Savlon when it emerged as the first ever Indian brand to bag the coveted Grand Prix for ‘Creative Effectiveness’. This sheds light on the legend that the Savlon advertising journey is.

Designed and conceptualised by Ogilvy India, the Grand Prix winning entry was a rendition of the 'Savlon Swasth India Mission' program.

Savlon’s brand journey is a force to be

reckoned with where the company went onto gain repute for effectiveness in germ

protection while going head on with majors like HUL’s Lifebuoy and Dettol.

The Savlon


The antiseptic liquid, Savlon took birth on foreign land under ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) several decades ago. On May 22, 1992 Johnson & Johnson announced that it acquired Savlon OTC brands from ICI. To date, Johnson & Johnson manufactures and distributes Savlon products throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, while ITC acquired Savlon along with Shower To Shower brands from Johnson & Johnson in India in 2015.

The use of Savlon was initially to clean and disinfect skin during surgical procedures and later was utilised across the world help clean wounds caused by cuts, abrasion, burns and insect bites.


P.S. The brand’s Wikipedia states that the product name is derived from the original ICI manufacturing site name of the Avlon Works at Avonmouth near Bristol on the Severn Estuary.

Here begins the Savlon advertising journey

The Painless Antiseptic

Reckitt & Benckeiser’s Dettol was already a hit in the market since its inception in 1933. The brand’s reach was so effective that it became synonymous with the antiseptic liquid category in the market for over 50 years.

After Johnson and Johnson (J&J) acquired Savlon and relaunched it in the early 90s, the company for years marketed it as an antiseptic brand that did not cause pain. While other brands focused on killing 99% germs, J&J bet big on the ‘Jyada Asar Bina Jalan’ proposition.

Thereafter it continued portraying the brand as a non-stingy option with its tagline ‘Healing without Burning’. Thus came the ‘Savlon Suraksha’ and ‘Suraksha Magar Pyaar Se’ ads.

Savlon Active hand wash was the first brand of antiseptic hand wash launched in 1998. With a  yellow liquid packed in transparent bottle, it claimed to have anti-bacterial cleansing effect and moisturizer for smooth skin. Later, Savlon HAND Ocean Blue rolled out in 2010 as Active Hand wash gave the feel of freshness.

From wet wipes to antiseptic cream shower gels and soaps to after shave lotions Savlon began expanding the product bouquet to counter stiff competition from Dettol.


Savlon beauty soaps place glycerine at the core of its ingredients while this commercial is recalled due to rendition of the famous Hindi song ‘Thoda Hai Thode Ki Zarurat Hai’.

Savlon joined hands with the creative agency Lowe Lintas in its initial years of advertising – the duo then went onto work together for several years. This TVC featuring TV actor Hiten Tejwani talks about the Savlon soap specially created for treating body odour. A series of TV commercials were made to convey how along with killing germs with Savlon.


Savlon aggressively marketed to build its image that of recommended and trusted by doctors worldwide.


Smells Good and Doesn’t Sting were the two value propositions with which Johnson and Johnson looked at building a connect with the masses.

Although the consumers were willing to try out the ‘Doctors recommended’ product, Savlon couldn’t overcome the dominating Dettol. For over five decades Dettol’s communication revolved around how the antiseptic is only effective when it hurts. Savlon had challenged this thought proess and took more time than expected to make people aware about the product’s benefits and accept it.

The anti-septci that doesn't sting yet heal ideology of the brand was also depicted in a fictional OTT series based on the advertising world, reflecting on the brand's strong recall.

ITC’s Savlon ‘Swasth India Mission’

Meanwhile, another conglomerate, ITC Limited was striving to build its base as one of the top players in the personal care category since 2005. Realising that Godrej is losing its hold with Savlon, ITC grabbed the opportunity to initiate talks about acquiring Savlon from J&J in 2015 with an aim to create a new engine of growth in the health and hygiene product category. Savlon ‘s business revenue was at Rs 65 crore during fiscal 2014, led by Dettol which in the Indian antiseptic market worth . Rs 300 crore.

Savlon was yet again relaunched albeit a new mantra. The brand roped in ace shuttler Saina Nehwal as its brand ambassador in 2016 and launched a new campaign encouraging children to push their limits.

In the same year, Savlon teamed up with Ogilvy Mumbai to unveil Savlon Swasth India Mission, a programme designed to encourage behavioural change towards washing hands amongst children through initiatives in schools. The program introduced interactive activities such as a series of storytelling and visual engagement that educate and encourage children to adopt good hand hygiene practices.

Through the initiative, ITC sought to reposition Savlon as a brand that could create value for the company, the consumer and society at large and launched an 'Healthy Hand Chalk Sticks' in 2017. To induce the habit of washing hands with soap among rural school children in India on the eve of Children’s Day.

The insight that primary grade students in rural schools still use black-slate and chalk sticks to write with and that it is common for the chalk powder to get smeared all over their hands, led to the idea of Savlon’s Healthy Hands chalk sticks. Made with a mixture of chalk powder and soap granules, the chalk powder on the kids’ hands turned into soap on its own when they put their hands under the taps before lunch. The idea was to turn washing hands with soap into an everyday habit.  A brainchild of Ogilvy’s Mahesh Ambaliya, Chalk Sticks reached 2,000 schools and 8 lakh children last year. 

The work

brought home 7 Lions at Cannes Lions 2017, and the Cannes Lions 2018 Grand Prix

for the most creatively effective campaign.

Haath Se Baat

On the occasion of Global Hand Washing Day in October 2017, Savlon took upon itself to combat the challenge of convincing children to wash hands. The campaign used a hidden voice artist that imitates germs and tells the children all about the dangerous diseases they can spread like typhoid, diarrhea, vomiting etc.

Savlon Swasth India ID Guard

Strengthening its commitment to address the widespread issue of hand hygiene, Savlon India in November 2017 introduced Savlon ID Guard. An ID card is an integral part of a school kid’s daily routine. It was redesigned with a multi-use hand wash sachet of soap to fit into the ubiquitous ID card that children all over the country wear to school.

Bharosa Maa Sa

Later in December 2017, the Savlon advertising journey riding on the insight that when hurt we subconsciously call out to our mothers, Savlon weaved a new brand campaign, ‘Bharosa Maa Sa’.

ITC Savlon’s Braille on World Sight Day

ITC Savlon introduced Braille enabled packs of Savlon Antiseptic liquid. Designed not just to enable access but also to help the visually impaired to identify and access the product.


Conceptualized by Ogilvy India. Everybody gets hurt Wavemaker strategized and implemented a multi-media campaign to enable outreach and communication of this first ever initiative.

Also Read: #BrandSaga: Lifebuoy- Championing health and hygiene since 1895

Savlon joins hands with Chota Bheem

Leveraging the immense popularity enjoyed by the animated hero Chota Bheem, Savlon teamed up with him to spread more awareness around the apt use of hand wash and sanitizers among kids.  

Harnessing the power of innovative design and thinking, the Savlon pen sanitizer spray  was touted as a first ever in this category that solves for effective germ-kill and efficient design to prevent wastage.

Enter, Boman Irani

Saina Nehwal was replaced by Boman Irani in May 2019 as the new brand ambassador for Savlon’s hygiene portfolio.

The announcement was followed by the roll out of new campaign ‘Do the Germ Fu’ inspired by martial arts, an exciting new way to teach kids a new way of washing hands while having fun.


Later owing to his witty, approachable and authentic persona, a series of quirky ads are being rolled out featuring Irani narrating serious benefits of Savlon handwash were released.

Swachhata Ka Gullak

With an objective of sensitising students on the need for an eco-friendly life while becoming community advocates to help segregate waste at source into dry and wet, Savlon advertising journey introduced ‘Swachchata Ka Gullak’ in September 2019, a community initiative led by school children.


Savlon’s #TheHiddenMonsters launched in October 2019 illustrates everyday actions which expose young children to germs.

Fighting the Corona Virus

With growing concerns around the #CoronaVirus, Savlon did its part by releasing a short video on some important things to remember while taking precautions against the deadly virus with the tagline #SurakshaAapkeHaathMein.  

Savlon on Social

Savlon India’s digital platforms are walking the talk around ‘Corona

Virus’ and how one must take utmost hygienic care because #SurakshaAapkeHaathMein.

The brand did its debut on Facebook and Twitter simultaneously in 2015 after it came under the ITC umbrella and since has been active. #SavlonSwasthIndia, BTL activities, topical posts, contests, challenges, and the most recent informative posts on the recent outbreak of Coronavirus are present on their social handles.

Savlon joined Instagram in 2017 and cross promotes its campaigns combined with some quirky creative on the app.

From introducing consumers to the 'painless' antiseptic that healed wounds to taking on the task of educating children across age groups around hygiene, Savlon Advertising Journey has been full of variety to say the least.

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