Did Unilever get its Rural Communications Right?
Friday, August 3, 2007
A new book from Wharton School Publishing is critical of Hindustan Unilever?s advertising strategy. Chennai, Aug. A new book from Wharton School Publishing is critical of Hindustan Unilever?s advertising strategy.
“HUL missed an opportunity for increased marketing productivity when they repositioned, retargeted, and relaunched Lifebuoy,” write Leonard M. Lodish, Howard L. Morgan and Shellye Archambeau, the authors of ?Marketing that Works? (www.pearsoned.co.in). Though the company was ?extremely innovative? the way it handled the rural communications plan was very traditional, they add.
The company basically worked with “one agency, Ogilvy and Mather (O&M), and screened some options to roll out one option that everyone was happy with,” reads an observation in a chapter titled ?entrepreneurial advertising that works?.
A better strategy, according to the authors, would have been to develop “a number of different communications executions using different creative sources and then testing them as part of the early rollout.”
Advertising strategy came for mention when the company reported the second quarter results, a few days ago. Mr D. Sundaram, Director (Finance & IT), HUL said: “We have been phasing our advertising spends depending on the launches and relaunches of brands.” The advertising spends have not been linear for the company, he added. The company?s advertising and promotional spends during the quarter fell to Rs 336 crore, from the earlier Rs 345 crore.
Lifebuoy is ?one of Unilever?s oldest brands? with more than a hundred-year history, as www.unilever.com informs. “Lifebuoy has become more than just a red bar of soap ? today the brand provides hygiene and health solutions for families,” says the site, in a paragraph on innovation.
“Differentiating soap products on the platform of health takes advantage of an opening in the competitive landscape for soap,” reads a quote in the book from C.K. Prahalad?s ?The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid?.
HUL, through its innovative communication campaigns, has been able to link the use of soap to a promise of health as a means of creating behavioural change, and thus has increased sales of its low-cost, mass-market soap, Prahalad notes.
The O&M strategy, as explained by Lodish et al, targeted “10,000 villages in nine states where HUL stood to gain the most market share? They spent a lot of effort in designing low cost ways of communicating with their rural target.”
The authors are of the view that government workers who have been interacting with villagers might have come up with some excellent ideas; “or the villagers themselves might also be able to generate very effective communications vehicles.”
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