Monday, August 29, 2005

Lifebuoy, now in all colours

Lifebuoy is one of the largest selling brands of soap in India. Known once upon a time for its distinctive carbolic fragrance (its more odour than fragrance) and its chunky design, marketing legend has it that customers referred to it as just "Laal soap" (Red soap). No wonder then that it spawned a host of me-too brands each trying to mimic the red wrapper and little else. Its ad jingle "tandurusti ki raksha karta hai lifebuoy" was synonymous with radio advertising.

But HLL, instead of killing the golden goose or fattening the goose introduced silver, bronze and many other variants of the goose, I mean, Lifebuoy.

So, now there is an International Lifebuoy Plus and an Active Lifebuoy (I think this is the original in a different shape and a slightly agreeable fragrance). These are pink and red respectively both at the wrapper and at the soap level. Then theres a Lifebuoy Fresh and Lifebuoy gold which are orange and white respectively. If you are some kind of a nature freak (I guess), theres Lifebuoy Herbal, which is green. Lifebuoy also has a talcum powder variant (no, not a soap, but talcum powder).

As if all this werent enough, a Lifebuoy Clearskin, (some kind of a premium Lifebuoy) is also available to complete this mess. I think this kind of brand extension dilutes the importance of the brand and confuses the consumer rather than generate any kind of extra business except perhaps curiosity value. Why does HLL think that a consumer will buy only Lifebuoy (substitute this with any other soap name) of any colour and hence offer him an entire range of Lifebuoys?


Anwin Joselyn said...

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CAn you please leave a comment with email id on everymanscity?

Sinfully Pinstripe said...

Maybe, Neelakanthan.

There is also the distribution channel which comes into picture. Check out the villeges, and you will find that the versions of lifebuoy available to them in shops are mostly the standard lifebuoys and Active lifebuoys. IN the cities and metros, you will find the more upmarket versions of Lifebuoy in the more posh localities.

Also careful marketing involving branding and pricing etc. will ensure that the aspirational values of the clientele of today's lifebuoy user will be fulfilled by the next upgraded product.

A great brand is a golden egg-laying goose, you are right there. And therefore, there is no point in not allowing the goose to mate and populate, thus producing more eggs and (I daresay) more geese too. So HLL tries to ensure that the same people who have been using the standard versions of lifebuoy, will change over into the upgraded (and costlier and more upmarket) versions of lifebuoy as their aspirational needs rise.

That has been the strategy used by GM with its cars for all segments. And cannot really blame lifebuoy if they try the same. And as we all know, the only thing right in in marketing is what works. And everything else is wrong. And the Prahlad-core-competency rigmarole might not be so feasible, IMHO, in the current scenario, with the standard lifebuoy-buying public having more disposable income in hand, and this corresponding to an enhanced aspirational need.

Neelakantan said...

I did think of the car analogy and GM itself has different names for cars that sell to different categories. My point is a) the increased sale that happens due to an increase in the number of variants keeps going lower and lower with every new variant at which point the consumer gets confused. b) These brands are not lifebuoy, which is a disinfectant soap. c) I can understand a downmarket version of the Merc, but not an upmarket version of the Maruti 800 (I can understand seeing a variant of, say, a dove for the mass market, but not a lifebuoy for the cognoscenti (whatever))

Neelakantan said...

Incidentally there does exist a "cheaper " merc if i may. The A class of small cars, if I am not mistaken. There are stripped down versions of luxurious cars in India. Does it diminish brand value? Well, like you said, there is no right answer in marketing!

And yes, HLL does not think they are stretching thin with lifebuoy clear skin and they will go on till the time they think they are not.

The first extension helped garner more sales and made lifebuoy more acceptable in households, after that, my guess is the trick hasnt worked (or perhaps it has, which is why there are ever more variants)

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