How Dettol is finding purpose and new consumer footing through partnerships

RB marketing director responsible for Dettol brand talks through the latest external brand partnerships, their impact, and why they're so important to growth


You are much more likely to deliver on your brand purpose by doing and saying something in partnership with another than doing something in isolation, says RB Health marketing director, Henry Turgoose.

Turgoose is the local marketing chief overseeing a host of iconic Australian consumer healthcare brands, from Dettol to Nurofen, Gaviscon and Durex. As he puts it, RB’s portfolio stretches from sexual health to hygiene, headaches and everything in-between.

Not surprisingly, brand partnerships covers a broad spectrum of opportunity for Turgoose and his team. A couple of the most significant partnerships he has overseen for the Dettol brand in recent years are its multi-year agreement with Cricket Australia, as well as the highly successful hygiene program of work kicked-off with Uber in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns.

“The way we’re looking at and approaching partnerships has a very simple starting point: Where we’re really clear on our brand purpose and where we can enter partnerships to help us better deliver on that. It’s a great case of doing well by doing good,” Turgoose tells CMO.  

“It all starts with being clear on our brand purpose. And often, you are much more likely to deliver on your purpose by partnering with somebody.”  

Just look at Dettol, which has a purpose to help Australians protect what they love – be that families, sports or day-to-day life. That’s the same formula applied to how the brand team looks at external partnerships. With the COVID-19 global pandemic significantly impacting the way consumers interacted and moved, Turgoose and his team saw dramatically heightened need against Dettol’s purpose of protecting what Australians love.

“With that has come some fantastic partnership opportunities with companies who see real benefit in working with Dettol in order to also deliver their service or their purpose, depending on the company,” he says.  

Enter Uber, who reached out to RB Health and Dettol on striking a partnership. “It was immediately obvious there was a really clear opportunity to work together,” Turgoose says.  

“The thing Uber really wants to focus on overall as a brand is safety. In COVID times coming out of lockdown, that meant hygiene. Consumer need shifted and public transport had a dramatically different perception than previously.

“Against that, Dettol’s objective is to protect what Australians loves, and to enable Australians to move around in confidence they will be in a clean, safe environment. It was the most intuitive thing for us to do together, ever.”  

What has made partnership even more impactful was both brands were taken into new spaces.

“Dettol has been protecting Australians for many years and many people talk about the smell of the brown liquid and how it ties to memories of childhood,” Turgoose continues. “To be on a smartphone app booking an Uber car, and seeing advice from both Uber and Dettol about hygiene protocols, and the driver carrying Dettol, takes the brand into new and surprising space. That is incredibly powerful from an equity shift perception.

“We could have both done this without each other, but the benefit and cut through from doing it together was absolutely enormous. The launch gained huge coverage on broadcast news, PR, and we got good equity reads off the program. And it enabled us as a very established brand to be in a completely new and meaningful space for the consumer.”

The ROI of partnership

Most external partnerships are subject to RB Health’s measurement scheme of brand equity scores, awareness and understanding of the partnership, and associated digital metrics. But at some point, and certainly in the case of the Uber partnership, Turgoose says metrics only go so far.  

While there were some financial aspects to work through with Uber, for instance, RB’s global purpose, and Dettol’s specific brand approach, made it a no-brainer.

“We didn’t go in with a completely buttoned-down model for how this was going to deliver fantastic ROI, but we knew it was the right thing to do for brand and consumer. And we knew everything would follow.

“So there was no sign-off process internally - we built the program and ran with it. Our internal dialogue was one of build this, then celebrate the launch locally and globally as proof of what Dettol can do as a brand.”  

With the more recent Cricket Australia partnership struck in 2020, the potential is multi-faceted. The partnership initially stemmed from press coverage on how Cricket Australia was assessing hygiene during the cricket game against the common practice of using saliva or sweat to polish the ball before bowling.

Under the agreement, Dettol and Cricket Australia are investigating transmission of germs in the sport and throughout games in order to help protect players and staff. Dettol is also supplying product to nearly 3500 cricket clubs and fulfilled hygiene protocols for the Indian team’s recent Australia tour. The partnership also focuses on reinforcing new hygiene behaviour changes through community cricket, Dettol’s Healthy Habits school program, and includes a bespoke shopping portal for community clubs to purchase products at wholesaler prices.

“It’s a very large, multi-year sporting agreement, and the magnitude is very different,” Turgoose explains. “It was a very significant decision for the Dettol brand to make, with a footprint beyond Australia… That was a significant investment from RB and bet we were making at a global level.”  

What these examples have taught Turgoose is that there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach applied to external partnerships.

“The framework we used to scope and build that [Cricket Australia partnership] is wholly different to how we looked at Uber and at current travel, entertainment and leisure partnerships,” he said.

“Partnerships depend on situation, businesses and brands involved. To try and put them through a ‘sausage machine’ of an approval or building process doesn’t enable you to take the other partner’s priorities into account. Partners have different assets – for example, they might have a huge organic following and owned assets we’re interested in getting exposure through; or they might be looking to entirely borrow Dettol’s equity.”  

Yet he’s almost universally convinced brands are better off saying or doing something in partnership, versus doing something in isolation. As an external brand example, Turgoose points to the recent ‘inactivewear’ clothing range launched by new Australian streaming provider, Binge, with online retailer, The Iconic.

“If Binge had done this alone, it would have been seen as a publicity stunt; if The Iconic had just done it, it was just a variant of clothing. But put the two together and it’s more newsworthy, interesting and relevant to the consumer,” Turgoose says. “There has to be value both brands and business can get from working together. If that’s there, it could be the youngest startup to a 60-year-old Dettol brand involved.”

Up next: How public and private sector partnership is opening up; plus advice on what it takes to get partnerships off the ground

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