Soaps were invented to cleanse the skin of oil and dirt but beauty claims is what they are usually sold at: gentle on the skin, moisturises naturally, and helps keep our skin baby soft. Hindustan Unilever, the market hero loved by almost half of the country’s Rs 17,000 crore soap market, has been a pro at marketing its soap brands, be it for Dove, Lifebuoy or Lux.
Lifebouy began life as a humble soap that killed germs, today the brand is a global champion in instilling handwashing behaviour in economically weaker sections of society. Dove first came into the limelight as the soap that felt like a moisturising cream, today the brand is a name to reckon with when it comes to researching ‘brands with a purpose’. Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaigns involving real women, be it white, black or brown, straight, wavy or curly, turned the tables on existing norms of conventional beauty.
The personal care business was no more personal, it was all about embracing and empowering the end consumer. Soaps took on a larger role in society, that of changing regressive outlook and promoting a progressive mindset. Your choice of soap now speaks about your own choices in life – do you believe in women empowerment?, do you believe the colour of your skin should decide your fate, do you support an equal world for everyone?
Dynamic times like these call for a differentiated route in advertising and brand communications. Which is what Vivel, the soap brand by ITC has embarked upon. As per reports Vivel has a 3% share in the market, which has been stagnant for the past three years. The market leader in the northeast and among the top three soap brands in West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala, now wants to play an active role in your life. It too, like most brands in the last few years, has joined the women empowerment bandwagon.
Vivel has recently launched a campaign ‘Ab samjhauta nahi’ that throws light on workplace harassment often faced by women. Conceptualized by LK Saatchi & Saatchi, the 40-second spot begins with a young confident woman talking to the audience about using ‘softness’ to tackle tricky situations in life.
The very next moment, at what looks like an office party, this woman is seen having a good time with her colleagues when a pervert man steps up to her. Eying her up and down, he pays her a compliment and makes her a proposal to join his company with the promise that he would take her ‘to the top’. What the woman retorted with that left him red-faced and looking for a quick exit, is something that needs to be watched.
The idea has been extended on to the social media front where the soap brand is inviting women to be a part of the conversations. ‘Ab Samjhauta Nahi’ has a dedicated Twitter handle to help spread the idea and amplify the brand message, in addition to the Vivel social media channels creating buzz. Content shared is a combination of quotes from women writers, celebrities, and influential people, along with driving empowering conversations using the hashtag.
From functional claims to empowering claims
A few months back, we were bombarded by Dove ads that sought the ultimate acid test to prove its gentleness on our skin versus other soaps. In one of the ad films, a couple of unassuming girls at a shopping mall were handed a strip of litmus paper and soap bars to test them on. When the detergent soap and other soaps caused the litmus paper to stain, but not Dove, they were in for a shock. Dove has been resorting to the litmus paper test since many years, but this is the first time that it took on other bathing soaps in the Indian market and proved them equivalent to a detergent soap!
Now that the ‘softness’ claim has been proved again and again by Dove, Vivel or any other premium bathing soap does not stand a chance to talk about being ‘soft on the skin’. But, the canvas for ‘softness’ is undefined; it can be easily pliable to drive the conversations elsewhere: from functional softness, the brand is now talking about ‘softness’ as your inner strength. ‘Ab samjhauta nahi’ is a cleverly placed positioning, one that helps retain Vivel’s association with softness, while also playing to the popular trend of women empowerment. (Read: The Best “Women Empowerment” Themed Indian Ad Films Of 2014)
While humorous in its tone, ‘Ab samjhauta nahi’ makes for an effective talking point about workplace gender discrimination, the seriousness of its impact is missing, however. Sexual harassment at work is a disturbing phase in most working womens’ lives, often resulting in poor performance, compromise and short working tenure. Vivel would have to do much more to ‘walk the talk’ if it wishes to really empower women, and become a brand with a purpose.