Listerine helps Malaysia smile naturally!

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The mouthwash category was a fierce one in Malaysia with Listerine as the market leader. However, Malaysia had a 65% Muslim population and Listerine which is primarily an alcohol based formula, could not penetrate a major chunk of the market due to religious reasons. Colgate Plax, with a non-alcohol variant, was making inroads and denting Listerine’s Market Share. In early 2012, Listerine found the solution in its new variant, Natural Green Tea mouthwash, a non-alcoholic formula which helps prevent cavities and wanted to capture this untapped market. One of the biggest challenges was to make people try it for the first time as most of them hadn’t tried a Listerine before.


The packaging was green which gave a direct reference to the traditional colour of Islam and gave the brand a huge opportunity to restage Listerine amongst Muslims.

Listerine understood that its target group required an emotional hook layered over the functional hook of anti cavity protection to draw them towards the brand.

Based on habit, behaviour and mindset, Listerine segmented the market and decided to target the ‘Millennial Malays’, a group which comprised about 40% of the total Muslims in Malaysia defined by their  struggle of juggling between modernism and traditional values. 


In the Holy Book, Prophet Muhammad had stated: “Smiling is an act of charity”. This was a ‘saddaqah’ (charity) that any Muslim could do even if he didn’t have anything to give. This resonated well with the Millenial Malays and Listerine built the whole campaign around it. A natural smile coming from a cavity-free mouth was the biggest end benefit and Listerine leveraged it.

Media and messaging was strategically interwoven to target them at the right time, place and context via out-of-home, retail, online and radio. Listerine launched the campaign specifically during the Holy month of Ramadhan to give it additional credibility.

The brand realised that the end benefit of Listerine was a heart warming natural smile, and everyone had a different smile. Listerine set up smile collection points at strategic retail locations across Malaysia and consumers were enticed with the ‘Act of Saddaqah’ urging them to share their smiles. For each smile collected, Listerine would contribute cash and products towards charity.  When they arrived at the smile collection-point, they were asked to try out the new Listerine and then give their best smile, which was captured by cameras. These smiles were posted on the Listerine Smile-wall on the brand’s website, on-ground and on Facebook.

An important ritual of Ramadhan festival was Balik Kampung (going to the village). These trips were associated with mile long traffic-jams. Listerine worked with the top two Malay radio-stations in Kuala Lumpur to create a unique experience. Listerine aired its message simultaneously on these stations inviting drivers to ‘smile at the person in the car next to them if they heard the message’. As these two stations were most likely being played in the cars, it created a natural reaction from drivers across the miles of traffic jam.


Listerine collected thousands of smiles for the campaign and the brand donated cash and products in charity to orphanages in Malaysia. The smiling activation touched more than 2.1 million Muslims and the campaign message reached an overwhelming 86% of the target audience. 

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Brand Owner:
Johnson & Johnson
May 2012 - September 2013
Media Channel:
  • FMAs shortlisted

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