Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Lifebuoy – Buoyed with Life

It is always a product manager’s dream to have a product/ brand which is 122 years old and still extremely relevant. Brands usually die over a period of time unless its brand characteristics are altered. Sustaining the brand equity is a herculean task considering the level of competition brands face today. Brand loyalty per se seems to be fading away. However, one brand i.e. Lifebuoy is far from dead internationally. The brand is dominating the market in India and other emerging countries, with a fourth place ranking in Kantor World Panel’s 2015 valuation of users and their buying frequency of 11,000 global brands in 35 countries—only falling behind Coca-Cola, Colgate, and Maggi(

Lifebuoy launched in the year 1894, was originally a carbolic soap with phenol inside. The red bar of lifebuoy was synonymous to health.  The jingle ‘Thanthurusthi ki Raksha” was one among the jingles with high customer recall.  Since inception the segmentation was benefit segmentation (even though it can also be considered as mass market product). Later, they upgraded it as a family soap with change in product features as well as ingredients in order to combat competition in the market. In fact Lifebuoy launched a variant which was white in colour containing milk in it. The company even tried to position it a beauty soap but later that variant was withdrawn from the market. However, the market was tough for lifebuoy when the consumer focus shifted towards perfumed soaps/ beauty soaps and they considered Lifebuoy only as a medicated/ health soap.

The twist to the tale happened when added the CSR element into their Health and hygiene positioning. Various campaigns like “Help a Child Reach 5”, Did you wash your hands with Lifebuoy today?” on over 2.5 million pieces of “rotis” during Maha Kumbh Mela etc. triggered customer attention towards the brand. The company also educated mothers the importance of being hygienic as 40% of infant deaths in India occur during the first 28 days of life. Thus a brand which was just a medicated soap suddenly became a solution for a critical cause of a society. They through all their campaigns tried to alter the consumer behaviour i.e. health habits of the rural consumer. Thus Lifebuoy brand relevance increased.

Currently HUL sells soaps and hand washes under the Lifebuoy brand catering to different benefits. For example Lifebuoy Mild Care is for sensitive skin while Lifebuoy Nature is purely natural. It also sells Lifebuoy Total addressing 10 germ protection and Lifebuoy Lemon Fresh with Lemon in it. All have the base positioning as germ protection. Even though Lifebuoy have competitors like Dettol and Savlon in the health space they are nowhere near Lifebuoy for the time being.

I feel that Lifebuoy which may appear to be in the fag end of its life cycle is turning things otherwise buoyed with more life.

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