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Handwash anyone?

The article is about how one of the biggest FMCG companies in the country is yet to explore a product category which has lot of growth potential and the probable reasons for the same. It is more of a personal hypothesis and does not reflect the company’s future plans in any way. The company I am talking about is Procter and Gamble.

Why Handwash? 
After the swine flu (H1N1) reached epidemic proportions last year, a large part of the world stood up and took notice of the hand wash products. Hand washes and Hand swipes finally were being taken seriously. In US for example, the sales of hand sanitizers went up rapidly. In India, hand sanitizers were introduced for the first time. And of course, for the consumers, it was a convenient and healthy proposition as it was more effective and it was much more convenient than using a soap or a handwash (if at all people find that cumbersome).

Let us consider the options PnG has among the already established brands. In personal hygiene and healthcare, there are some product categories which PnG is already into with two very popular brands – Vicks an ‘OTC drugs for cold and cough’ brand and Whisper a ‘feminine health’ brand. These are very specific categories and personally I feel there is still lot of scope in personal hygiene.

If oral health could be considered a part of personal hygiene, PnG is not doing too badly in India. It had acquired Oral-B brand earlier itself and is most probably going to enter the toothpaste category under Oral-B. But strangely enough, CREST in spite of being a popular brand the world over was never introduced in India. I am sure it could have given tough competition to the Colgates and the Pepsodents here in India.

Mothers everywhere would like products which would not only help them ensure complete protection from germs for kids, but also convenience so as the whole process of washing hands is made a bit more interesting. Liquid handwash does this job to a large extent as children would find some amount of novelty factor in the hand wash dispense as against the regular soap. Reckitt Benckiser’s DETTOL and HUL’s LIFEBUOY have the largest market share in this category. How were these brands successful? Dettol since a long time stands for 100% safety and category extension into soaps and handwashes from antiseptic lotion was natural choice to them. Same with Lifebuoy. Lifebuoy with its unique ‘carbolic acid’ odor has been in the public’s mind as health soap. It has been one of HUL’s oldest brands.

But personally I feel, HUL has such a large portfolio of products that had there been no lifebuoy they coud have easily entered the handwash category with the help of other brands. For example, lets us take VASELINE. Vaseline, a petroleum jelly product was always associated with skin care and winter. So when the time came, they extended brand VASELINE to include skin care as well. It was not that skincare was not already an area HUL was looking into. With products like Dove, Lux, Pond’s and Fair and Lovely, they were already hugely into the skin care segment. What I intend to say is Vaseline – though now intuitively seems to be a skin care product it could have been easily extended to something like handwash.

Coming back to PnG, one fact we all will agree to is that PnG has been selling more of premium products and has not been into the middle class market as much as HUL. Hugo Boss, Escada , Lacoste are few such examples. But in India, PnG has been selling goods for middle income markets and by far MACH 3 would be the most premium brand PnG is into. But if at all it wanted to get into the health and hygiene products like handwash, is it possible? One of the easiest and most natural choices would have been to a soap brand (preferably with anti germ properties) which could have been easily used for brand extension. But in its absence, the next obvious choice would be the personal hygiene products which you already have in your portfolio. Definitely VICKS and WHISPER would not help PnG in this regard. Would a brand like CREST or ORAL-B have helped build a personal hygiene brand – even this is debatable. Acquiring some already established brand is another option.

Thus to conclude, I would say that for any FMCG company, it would always help to create brands keeping in mind the bigger picture so as to have more options for brand extension at a later point of time.


Categories: Marketing
  1. December 5, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I dont disagree with this article!!

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