How HUL is tapping the premium detergent market with 'love & care'

HUL has launched a new detergent after 32 years, we delve deeper into the reasons behind the move, the product’s branding, marketing and more

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Published: Aug 26, 2019 8:25 AM  | 5 min read
love & care hul

Hindustan Unilever, makers of Surf Excel, expanded its fabric care range recently launching its love & care fabric wash solution. The all new India-focused product, launched across top 30 cities in India, has been created for washing premium fabrics like silk, fine cottons and chiffon among others, and would be positioned in the premium category.  

Given the fact that the last time HUL launched a new detergent was 32 years ago, we delve deeper into what’s with the move, the product’s branding, marketing and more.

If reports by Euromonitor International are anything to go by, the Rs 28,298-crore detergent market is growing at an annual rate of 7 per cent. That growth in the last three years seems to be driven by the higher-priced segment as the share of branded detergents have witnessed a leap from 15 per cent in July 2016 to 22 percent in December 2018 in the overall Indian market, according to Hindustan Unilever Ltd.’s data cited in the report.

As the numbers say a thing or two about how the new launch is part of the company’s ongoing ‘premiumisation’ strategy in the laundry category that already has brands such as Wheel, Surf, Sunlight, Rin and Comfort, industry observers opine that the brand has tapped into the evolving market, just right.

Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner and Chief Creative Officer, Bang In The Middle, says, “As India progresses and as Indians and their purchasing power goes on to grow, there will be a sizeable population that will invest in expensive products. As there are few high-end dry cleaners, it is an evolving market which will have niche needs like this.”

As it is targeted at affluent Indians, the product will be available at modern retail outlets and on e-commerce platforms.

Vishal Nicholas, Sr. VP- Head of Planning, Dentsu India, points out that Indian cultural insights and the importance of special occasions like weddings in India will ensure that there is a sizeable niche for a premium detergent like ‘Love & Care’ in India.

“We all have had our ‘Woh Alag Se Dhona’ or ‘Woh dry cleaning Ke Liye’ moments. Preservation of precious clothes is a big worry in our minds. Culturally also, it is ingrained in us to take care of precious clothes. Cupboards in India are filled with sarees/suits enveloped in paper or plastic and that wisdom is passed down generations as a good practice. Tapping into this cultural insight is key to overcoming the premium pricing barrier else it will be seen as ‘Fizool ka Kharch’ in households where regular detergents are seen to do the job quite well,” Nicholas says.

The pricing for ‘Love & Care’ ranges from Rs 150-175 for 500ml. Godrej Ezee (winterwear, Chiffon and silk) also operating in the premium category is priced at Rs 90 for 500gm. N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA feels that from a market point-of-view, it’s an essential as even cost determines premium in some way. “While Ezee is there, it doesn’t give you the same flavor. ‘Love & Care’ is rightly positioned with the right choice of brand ambassador and will largely see volume due to the shift,” he explains.

The company has already roped in fashion designer Manish Malhotra as the brand ambassador. Weighing in on the marketing mediums to be leveraged by the brand, Vineet Sodhani, CEO, Spatial Access, says,” The brand would explore digital, English entertainment genre on TV and high-end women’s magazines.”

Suthan notes that marketing mediums used by the brand should be definitely OTT channels like Netflix, social media mediums such as Facebook that will allow them to target high-end individuals. “I don’t see this coming on GEC channels but a part of the marketing plan should definitely be high-end glossies,” he adds.

Home care comprising detergents and household care products like Domex and Vim is HUL’s second-largest business segment, generating around 35 per cent of its overall sales. 

Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, asserts that the newbie detergent comes across as a finely crafted product. Deconstructing what makes it tick, Bijoor says, “HUL is really aspiring to reinvent the joy of washing clothes by those who use those very clothes. Today we have come a full circle, or so it seems. We used to wash our clothes on our own in our homes, then came the 'bai' who washed those very same clothes, but with a lot less of love and care. And then in came the outside laundry. Here clothes of all and sundry mixed together and again, love and care is a missing element. And then in came the washing machine. Machines do it in their own mechanical way in the home. And now we have a movement literally that says wash your very good clothes and intimates yourself. This new brand from HUL plugs into that category of thought.”

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