Why I would love to work with HUL! – Updated

One more time, one more occasion, one more killer activity!

Just a few days back, Proctor & Gamble (P&G) started a teaser campaign for its leading Shampoo brand Pantene. Dubbed ‘the mystery shampoo’, it claimed that 80% of women preferred this mystery shampoo over any other shampoo according to some study. Here is the Mystery Shampoo Launch Video.

Pantene - Mystery? ((C) Raza Sayed)

I view this as a consumer.

I have been seeing these teaser hoardings for the past few days. There was a report in Bombay Times that Neha Dhupia was attending a promotional event for P&G and one of the images carried there clearly had the mystery shampoo creative as the backdrop. Putting two and two together, I could figure that it was Pantene.

Being so far away from the FMCG world, I could figure that the mystery shampoo was Pantene at least 4 days back. I am sure HUL would have done it the day the first set of vinyls went up for the teaser. After all, that’s their business!

Me as a consumer drove past the hoarding. I did nothing.

But HUL didn’t rest. And as the clichéd term goes… ‘Rest’ is history. Just that ‘rest’ here has a different meaning. I am sure none of the employees of HUL handling shampoo brands would have slept post the first teaser. Their minds would have been on an overdrive trying to figure out how to kill competition. And ‘pop’ came the idea in someone’s mind. Just that as a consumer I can’t figure whether the idea was generated at HUL or at Ogilvy. But wherever it came from, I think it was a gem.

From what I can deduce purely from experience this would have been the sequence of events:

Day 1: Emergency meeting – HUL internal
Presentation (however crude format) on all facts gathered about who is running the campaign. Data collation on what study was being used to make a claim that 80% of women prefer Shampoo X over any brand in the HUL stable.

Brainstorming session (however long) to put together facts / finding chinks in the competition’s claim. A parallel session on briefing the Agency.

Day 1 – Part 2: Emergency meeting – HUL marketing + Ogilvy servicing + Media buying agency servicing team
Urgent brief explaining the teaser campaign by P&G and the need to kill the campaign! The session would impress upon Ogilvy why the campaign should be out in the open within the next two days. The session would also include briefing the creative team on the key message. The message here is:

Kill the mystery. Claim it to be ‘Dove’.

(Why would they have chosen Dove as against say, a Sunsilk? Dove is a premium brand and fits the sensibilities of this event. Also, Dove being a large brand internationally, the claim to be ‘No.1’ can be substantiated through some study or the other. Sunsilk probably doesn’t fit the bill here.)

The media agency is in parallel put on an emergency job to get all hoardings across all cities where P&G has taken the teaser campaign live and is asked to revert with options before the same night to approve sites.

Day 1 – Part 3: Ogilvy Mumbai office – Dove servicing team + Dove Creative Team
War Room feel – That’s what it would have been at the Ogilvy offices. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone from the HUL team would’ve been at the Ogilvy office to take decisions if necessary so that precious time is not wasted. High energy, high voltage, raging tempers and some alcohol. That is precisely what the room would smell and feel like.

The Ogilvy creative team (copy + art) is sitting together and creating layouts. A few options, which will fall within the overall Dove brand guidelines are being churned out. A very happy chic looking almost 30 year old lady with beautiful, flowing, silky smooth hair (obviously). Simple two line message to drive the point home. And the glorious pack-shot with a sign-off!

The same campaign is also conceived as a TV Commercial. A simple few slide story board is made with existing images so that this can be executed in a single day with stock shots and music.

Images & video courtesy: HULs old shoots. Existing images which were shot (read ‘mass produced’) during the past and not used for whatever reason.

The HUL executive in all probabilities slept at the Ogilvy office till the final layout is approved. The final layout is also sent to the senior brand manager who would have approved it from his Blackberry smart phone.

Day 1 – Part 4: HUL + Media Agency
The outdoor team reverts with all possible available sites (which are as close to the P&G sites as possible) with photographs, costings etc. A quick TV plan is also put up with a focus on garnering high GRPs. The job for the media agency is easy considering that HUL would have existing inventory which would already be committed and all they have to do is a bit of rescheduling. The decision process on the media plan is completed. The same is communicated to Ogilvy so that they can make the artworks in the specified sizes.

Day 1 – Part 5: Ogilvy Mumbai + Media Agency offices
Late night! Studio and the creative teams are working together in finishing the images and getting the artworks completed for the media agency to execute. You must note that not all the hoardings have the same woman. They have chosen deliberately to feature different women for different artworks. All artworks made to the specific sizes are saved in the FTP server Ogilvy which is downloaded by the Media agency. The media agency then sends it to the various cities electronically so that the Vinyl printing can be done locally and executed the next day itself.

Day 1 – Part 6: Ogilvy Mumbai + A swanky studio (like Prime Focus)
A quick edit of existing footage of these beautiful girls endorsing Dove is put together using complex video editing softwares. The HUL executive is doubling up between the agency office for layouts and the studio for the final edit. An mp4 of the video is uploaded so that the senior brand manager can approve it from wherever he can download it. If need be he/she makes a trip to the studio to approve the final edit.

Day 2 – Part 1: HUL Marketing meeting
Briefing session to the in-house PR team with facts on all chinks in the competition campaign is conducted. Also the in-house team is briefed on the speed with which the HUL marketing team along with the creative and media agency executed a perfect campaign to kill the teaser by competition. The PR team puts together a press release and also contacts key journalists (Times group in this case) to break this news a day before. ET is chosen since it is the largest circulating business paper. Relevant pictures of the campaigns are also provided with enough information so that the publication can carry a photograph if required.

Day 2 – Part 2: Recording and Editing Studio + Media Agency
The final digitized version of the TV commercial (TVC) is reached to the channel offices and given a special request to air the TVC starting the first available slot in the HUL inventory. Executed with finesse, the TVC can go on air starting the next day afternoon (and if lucky the morning itself).

Day 2 – Part 3: Media Agency offices across the various cities chosen
Printing of vinyls and installation of the vinyls in the various sites chosen by HUL late into the night so that the campaign breaks the next morning.

Day 3: Campaign day
Campaign is out on the outdoor medium. Campaign is out on TV.
A press report is carried on the front page of Economic Times stating the HUL has broken the P&G campaign.

Two high-adrenaline days leading to a perfect spoil. And this is the result:

The killer

No Mystery - Dove ((C) Raza Sayed)

Day 4: P&G retorts saying HUL is maligning P&G products. HUL snaps back saying P&G is using a research conducted in Thailand which has no relevance to India. P&G pulls back usage of the Thailand research and uses another AC Nielson report with a similar result.

Who wouldn’t want to work with HUL if this is how interesting life would be?!

Note:  The sequence of events are purely from my imagination, based on what ‘could’ have happened based on my experience. The actual sequence of events may be very different (and probably more efficient). This post is to try and share how this whole event could have unfolded for the benefit of people who don’t work in the marketing function. I am willing to stand corrected should there be anyone from HUL or Ogilvy shares their experience on this campaign.


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7 Responses to “Why I would love to work with HUL! – Updated”

  1. Ultimately consumer suffers and get confused as to which product to use and which has the quality….

  2. Nice article. But i am surprised someone with so much experience in marketing and perhaps having worked there would write somethign like this and think highly of UL.

    I am quite close to the india SH market, and also have worked for a big marketing firm. I think HUL is reacting just for the heck of it. They don’t need to. DOve is the fastest growing brand in india. they are doing good even without this tomfoolery. concentrate on your own strengths, rather than scamper after others. Play fair. Consumers are not fools. they are not swayed by this. Its a ego trip for a marketing team versus the other. Its just more money for the media companies via last min spot purchase 🙂

    My two pence.

  3. Thanks Chandru & Harika for reading and commenting.
    @Chandru: Probably that’s the idea of HUL. They pre-empted Pantene’s campaign of a mystery shampoo being like by 80%+ women! And confuse the consumer by making them choose Dove when they want the ‘mystery shampoo’!
    @Harika – I have never worked with HUL or with Ogilvy. Though I wouldn’t mind 🙂
    Agree that Dove is the fastest growing shampoo in India. But to have pre-empted a competition’s teaser campaign is absolutely fair according to me. It is a different issue that P&G is not as nimble as HUL to do something similar. They are typically a conservative entity. HUL today has the strengths, the speed and the marketing wizardry to attempt and pull-off such a coup. My article is just an appreciation of such Himalayan efforts of pulling off an entire campaign in just a couple of days. Maybe its an ego trip, maybe it isn’t. But I think it is an enjoyable trip all the more!
    Thanks again for writing in. Great to interact! 🙂

  4. I am sorry, I would disagree with you and for the same reasons as mentioned by Harika.

    Brand management is of course not about being reactive and responding to competitors on one-on-one basis. These tactics indicate desperation and insecurity on part of Dove brand management and creative team. Dove as a brand has established good equity in its own positioning territory and there seems to be no reason to deviate from it to respond to a competitor’s campaign.

    Had I been at HUL, rather than being proud of the apparent war room feel, I would have been irritated at the knee jerk action of my bosses. Positioning and strategy lead results in long term and while such reactive measures look good in theory, I wonder if they do any long term good to brand or consumer.

    And finally, instead of spending couple of crores in ‘responding’, Dove brand budget could have been better utilized by launching a new well-thought out campaign, in line with positioning. This would have had much more long term benefit for the brand.

    To me, HUL seems to playing in the hands of P&G!

  5. Dear Suharsh,
    I am sure you are entitled to your opinion on this subject.

    According to me, Brand Management is like riding a chariot. The job is to steer the horses (brand) to ensure that it is on course and towards the destination. Sometimes, you end up going through such blips and speed-breakers. It is quite possible that one considers this as playing into the hands of the competition. But the post if you notice is more about the nimble-footedness of a large organisation rather than a comment itself on the strategy.

    I do believe that the brand managers have done a clean job of not screwing up the brand image / position while still managing to be a pain in P&G’s B*&(.

    Pleasure interacting! 🙂 Hope to see more of you here.

  6. wow…that was some real insight in marketing world.

    this war is not going to stop in near future.

    Next, Pantene saya that “You try, You decide” against the Dove Celebrity woman.
    Now, today Dove has come up with a new campaign saying that both Real woman and Celebrity have used it and rated it good. Ira(normal common women) has rated 9/10 for Dove and says that its anti-breakage etc.

  7. Thanks Anshul for your comment. I didn’t expect it to stop there. It is a war for these guys and will continue to fight it! 🙂 Just watch and have fun.

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