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Inspite of seeing explosive growth in last 5 years, deo category is under duress: Ashok Namboodiri

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Inspite of seeing explosive growth in last 5 years, deo category is under duress: Ashok Namboodiri

At a time, when most of the deodorant brands have been objectifying women in their ads or portraying them as objects of desire, Park Avenue deodorants from JK Helene Curtis attempts to break this cliché and go the other way. The brand which currently enjoys a market share of 8% in the Rs 1,800 crore male deodorant market, aims to make communication which won’t tread the beaten path.

Ashok Namboodiri, Business Director, JK Helene Curtis, speaks about the challenges in this category, the reason behind the clichés in its advertising, the brand’s marketing plan, celebrity association, and adoption of this category in tier 2 and tier 3 markets. Excerpts:

Why has the deodorant category not been able to fully evolve over the years?

First of all I would like to say that I am not surprised that the category is at this stage because it does take time to evolve. Secondly, worldwide, deodorants as a category play a much larger role in the lives of the consumers. But in India we have been marketing it more as a surrogate for perfumes and that is primary the reason, why this category is under some form of duress even after seeing explosive growth in the last 5-6 years. It is time therefore, to look at sub-segmenting the category and that is where growth will come from. To my mind, the position which we have taken is the beginning of that kind of evolution which will actually grow the category, drive usage occasions and start new conversations.

What is the market size of Men’s deodorant category?

The size of the Men’s deodorant category is a total about Rs 1,800 crore and Park Avenue’s market share in it is around 8%.

Male deodorant ads are usually very clichéd, with mostly showing women swooning over men using deodorants. Your last ad in August with Farhan Akhtar did attempt to break this stereotype and instead spoke of the benefits of the product. What was the insight behind the changed concept?

We constantly meet consumers and do a lot of insight work. You are right; the category has been very uni-dimensional in the way they are conversing with consumers today. So most of them actually speak a very un-differentiated kind of language, but when we spoke to consumers, we realised that they are actually sensing a change and they were beginning to tell us that we need to start initiating different conversations. We realised that it is no more about attracting the opposite sex and the category is also intrinsic, in terms of how I feel about myself and we decided that this is the insight we need to build on.

How has been the adoption of this category in the tier 2 and the tier 3 markets?

The category is evolving and it is more of an urban centric category till now. But the adoption has started to go down the strata, one of the reasons is men have begun to look at deodorants as something which enables them in social and work context, gives them the confidence to face untoward situations and to stay fresh. This is really driving the growth of the category towards the tier 2 and the tier 3 areas. We believe it is going to increase going forward, but again it will be upto players like us who will have to work towards pushing the growth.

How has Farhan Akhtar’s association helped the brand?

When you do a celebrity association, I disagree that a popular face is what drives relevance for the brand. A lot of work has to go in identifying a synergy between what the brand stands for and what the celebrity stands for. I believe we have latched on to a great synergy, and so far after the campaign broke with Farhan, it has done extremely well for us in terms of consumer engagement and trials.

For marketing of your products, which medium do you mostly focus on?

We believe in the conventional 360 degree campaign because it is important to have multiple touch-points with the consumers. Talking about which medium works better for us, I would say each touch point has its own characteristics. Whether it is the reach which you are talking about or the kind of consumers you are targeting. So it will be unfair to compare one against the other. Also depending on what your marketing objectives are you pick the kind of medium. So it is always going to be mix of all the mediums.

What has been the USP of the brand Park Avenue deodorants?

When you are a surrogate for perfume, your usage occasions are limited to social occasions, like when you are going out. So typically communication seems to be all in the night, or in the bedroom, or show a black shirt and spray the deodorant, it is all the same. When I say you drive multiple occasions and play a larger role in the lives of the consumers, you got to drive relevance through a unique proposition. We also believe the insight which we have that men today want to stay inspired throughout the day and if you can really cater to that, by providing new products which are going beyond perfumes and which are going to play a more active role, then there could be an opportunity for us.

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