Social media

How Dettol’s TikTok handwashing challenge racked up 100 billion views

When Reckitt Benckiser first approached TikTok with an idea to create a hygiene awareness campaign in India, the consumer goods company had three objectives in mind. It wanted to educate TikTok’s users about good public health practices, promote handwashing and, finally, to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens. The first Covid-19 cases had been identified in the country on 30 January.

Positioning its leading germ protection brand Dettol as the face of the campaign, Reckitt Benckiser reimagined TikTok’s popular Hashtag Challenge format, where users create videos around the latest memes, trends or dance moves.

The #HandWashChallenge invited participants to create their own dance moves around washing their hands, set to a bespoke soundtrack created by TikTok, in a video carrying Dettol branding. While the dance moves were ‘freestyle’, there were four steps to the challenge, each signified by small illustrations that appeared on screen as the music played.

  • Rub palms together
  • Rub fingers and thumbs
  • Rub nails on palms
  • Rub the back of hands

Designed for the Indian market, the campaign kicked off by inviting Bollywood celebrities like Tiger Shroff (@tigershroff), Disha Patani (@dishapatani) and Riteish Deshmukh (@riteishd) to create their own #HandWashChallenge videos, alongside the country’s most popular TikTok creators, such as Riyaz Ali (@riyax.14).

Initially, there was an expectation that the campaign might only resonate with TikTok’s core demographic, but it rapidly went viral and a cross section of society, ranging from  grandparents to health workers and people working from home, each filmed themselves washing their hands. Even Reckitt Benckiser colleagues got in on the act. Launched on 14 March 2020,  just two days after the first death registered from Covid-19 in India, more than 123,000 people had uploaded their HandWashChallenge within six days while the campaign had been viewed more than 18 billion times.

Following this success, the campaign was adapted to suit local needs and rolled out across nine other markets – Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and Egypt. Each country had a geo-specific Challenge page, unified under the #HandWashChallenge hashtag, and local celebrities were recruited to launch the campaigns.

Dettol then rolled out a second six day challenge in India, which focused on the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that people should wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds to prevent infection. This challenge, which ran from 3 April 2020, incorporated a digital countdown timer.

All told, the #HandWashingChallenge racked up more than 100 billion views while more than 75 million unique TikTok videos were created. Indeed, in India alone, more than 17 million people created in excess of 44 million videos, which were viewed over 60 billion times and generated almost seven billion interactions. The campaign even stretched beyond TikTok’s domain, as it generated an additional 270 million views outside the site.