Bar soap ads shun falling rose petals for grit and grime

Two brands, Vivel and Hamam have both cashed in on the women empowerment sentiment to create a refreshing brand communication

e4m by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Published: Aug 4, 2017 7:50 AM  | 4 min read

Bar soaps have always been about the soft after-glow of a long bath. Now there is more to bar soaps than soft skin that men desire to touch. Bar soap brands are embracing the changing times and creating a narrative that women and girls of today can relate with.

So far, a generic bar soap ad for women comprised three key elements: rose petals lilting softly across the screen, an opulent bathtub and a Bollywood leading lady. This formula has not failed brands despite the continuous public debate about ads like these being harmful to the perception of self-worth of women and young girls. However, brands have caught on to the public sentiment and remedied the formulaic ad that drives women to have flawless, soft and most often fair skin. Two brands, Vivel and Hamam have both cashed in on the women-empowerment sentiment to create a refreshing brand communication.

The latest kid on the block is ITC’s Vivel. The ad for the newly launched Lotus Oil variant of Vivel soap empowers women with its ‘don’t compromise’ attitude with the tagline #AbSamjhautaNahin. The ad portrays women from varied professions doing what they like best and excelling in their chosen professions. It is worth noting that the creators of the ad have steered clear of overtly fair-skinned professionals in the ad. The ad is set to a poem that lists the various commandments to which girls need to conform and by which they need to live their lives.

Recently, another bar soap brand also moved away from the formulaic ad and launched a marketing campaign centered around self-defence for girls. Hamam’s latest campaign sought to promote the safety of women by enabling women to safeguard themselves against all kinds of harm. Hamam has always positioned itself as a protector. It one of its early ads, a pregnant mother tells her son that she provides protection to the baby inside her just like Hamam protects him. This time around Hamam added a twist to the brand positioning. Now, a mother enrols her young daughter in a self-defence class to make her self-reliant.

Shunning the formula and hopping on to the women-empowerment bandwagon is not necessarily the best approach, experts say. When a brand wants to make a difference, it now has a new formula—women empowerment. We asked experts if these ads are really breaking the clutter or adding to it.

Expert View:

Mandeep Malhotra

Founding Partner & Chief Executive Officer, The Social Street

I wish that ads that promote women empowerment are here to stay and not just a phase in advertising. I wish more brands move into this space more seriously and not as an interim opportunity or gimmick. That said, there is a lot of clutter that is being established not only among soap brands but across other categories as well. If ads that are based on the theme of women empowerment are not yet part of the clutter, they will be in the next couple of months. Every brand will be speaking the same language.

In the urban metro demographic, these ads may not have the kind of impact that is expected. That is because the woman in this demographic is very smart and equipped to know exactly what she wants. She knows from the health and price-point angle what is the product that she needs to purchase. An ad like this will not sway her purchases.

Arnab Mitra

Managing Director, Liqvd Asia

Both brands have done a great job of taking up two story lines that are unlike their general brand communication. But a consumer does not look at it from the perspective of which brand is advertising. What first happens is that a consumer likes a communication and later connects the brand with the ad. Unfortunately, neither Vivel nor Hamam are the leaders of the category be it, product, brand positioning or communication. So, I am not sure this communication will position both these brands with higher top of the mind recall than they had earlier. Taking up a feminist angle is the flavour of the season. Because of this, my fear is that they might get lost in the noise.

Lastly, the campaigns have a lot of potential in the digital space. What brands do not realise is that a digital campaign is not about just creating a hashtag. While it is a good start for the brands, it is a lost opportunity.

With Hamam’s regional communication approach that extends to Tier 2 cities, it is surely the clear winner among the two.

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