“The consumer is looking for personalized solutions for specific needs”: Prabha Narasimhan of HUL


In an interview with afaqs !, Executive Director – Home Care, HUL, talks about the journey of Sunlight Detergent, Unilever’s first brand in India.

Recently, Sunlight Detergent, a Hindustan Unilever (HUL) brand, launched an initiative called “Sunlight Tantir Rong” to support West Bengal hand weavers. Sunlight connected these weavers with famous contemporary designers. The campaign was part of the brand’s new journey to make it more focused and make a positive difference in the lives of consumers in Bengal.

By email, Prabha Narasimhan, Executive Director – Home Care, HUL, spoke about the campaign and journey of Unilever’s first brand in India since its launch in 1888.

“’Sunlight Tantir Rong’ is a unique campaign, given the nature and scale of what we were trying to achieve. We wanted to create a platform where these local weavers could showcase their extraordinary art. We wanted to have a well-known fashion designer, who could work with him to create contemporary designs and capture the imaginations of our consumers. We have found a perfect match in Parama Ghosh, ”says Narasimhan.

“Apart from this collaboration, it was important to carry this message to the masses. This was done via a powerful digital piece (the content has already crossed four million views) and a TVC, created in collaboration with SVF, which has successfully partnered with us for several campaigns since 2020 ”, adds -she.

The brand also changed the design of its pack to promote this campaign and drive traffic to the website, via a QR code.

“This is the first time that we have created a special edition Sunlight pack, especially for Durga Pujo 2021, to bring the countryside to life. It’s like our tribute to the work of the Bengal weavers. We have kept the iconic structure and the yellow color. Our logo on the packaging symbolizes the way sunlight penetrates Bengal fabrics, ”says Narasimhan.

“The myriad colored rays have been replaced with beautiful Bengal weaving patterns. The hand of the weaver, with the quintessential safety pin, is a representative of the ‘tanti’ of Bengal. By designing and placing the QR code on the front and back of the package, we want to encourage people to scan it and visit the website, where the “Sunlight Tantir Rong” collection is available for sale, ”adds she does.

In 2020, the brand designed a new journey for Sunlight – “enabling people to live in color”.

“Sunlight enjoys very high equity and is the market leader in the detergents segment in Bengal. But in 2020, we decided we wanted to make Sunlight more than just a brand of detergent so that it could find deeper meaning in people’s lives. With this we launched our goal of enabling people to live in color. As a first campaign idea, we decided to challenge the stereotype around age and how age shouldn’t determine the colors you wear and the life you lead.

Sunlight, launched in 1884, was the world’s first packaged and branded laundry soap. It was launched in India in 1888, becoming the first brand of Unilever in India. Today, HUL has other brands in its fabric care segment, such as Active Wheel, Rin, Surf Excel, Nature Protect, Love & Care and Comfort. But despite Sunlight’s heritage, unlike other brands, it is only present in West Bengal and Kerala.

“At HUL, we have a Winning in Many Indias (WIMI) approach, which allows us to tailor our offerings in different markets to better meet the needs of various consumer segments. As a result, the footprint of our geographic portfolio, our marketing mix and our communications vary according to the specific needs of each market. We have ambitious plans to drive growth and develop brand love in these markets, ”reveals Narasimhan.

So what is it that makes Sunlight so popular in these two states? Nisha Sampath, Brand Marketing Consultant with over 20 years of experience with brands like HUL, Swiggy, Aditya Birla Group, GVK Group, says both markets have more advanced fabric care users.

“I’m not sure this is one of those growing brands. I would call them a cash cow. The brand has reached a certain level and without much publicity or pushing the brand is moving. Advertising is more about sustaining sales, but most people will know the brand, ”she adds.

“In many categories, Kerala and West Bengal behave very differently from the others. This has always been the case and it is difficult to indicate a single factor. For example, Kerala is much more evolved in terms of laundry, as if they have laundry soaps compared to laundry bars. Because they have soft water and the bars work best in hard water. Soaps are also gentle on the hands, ”she says.

Despite Sunlight’s strong presence in these two states, it is not expanding to other markets. Abneesh Roy, executive director of Edelweiss Financial Services, said it would be like launching a new product for HUL. “Bringing the brand to other markets now will be like launching a new product now and it will involve huge expense. They must have tested it and decided against it. The brand is doing well in these markets and is therefore focusing on them, ”he says.

The functional promise of Sunlight is that it keeps colors vivid thanks to its “Color Guard” technology. Sampath says that while it may not have become a national brand, it has solidified its base in this segment. “He has a very loyal user base. Few brands offer color protection. This is an advantage of high-end detergents. They’ve always had it very consistently. “

Sunlight also tried to grow through the format upgrade. For example, they launched liquid laundry detergent two years ago. “This is how they tried to consolidate and improve the target audience. With detergents, it is ultimately a gain in value. Thus, all the major players would like their consumers to switch from an economical product to a more upscale product in the same range, ”adds Sampath.

However, innovations at Sunlight are much slower compared to other HUL brands. While brands like Surf and Rin have been offering liquid detergents for years, the same was introduced in Sunlight only two years ago. In fact, Surf now even has Smart Shots (pods). Narasimhan says the innovations are designed with the needs and aspirations of TG in different markets in mind.

Sampath qualifies detergents as a “repertoire” category. “Even middle-class consumers, who use Nirma or Wheel, would experience products like Surf and Ariel through pouches. Different clothes have different requirements. They will therefore use the high-end products for the more expensive clothes. Sunlight has obviously arrived late as they are not speaking to a premium segment. When the liquids were launched in India, they were aimed at a high end segment. Maybe he thinks that because of brand loyalty, there is an opportunity to keep these users within the brand franchise. This gives them a chance to upgrade the users within the brand. “

Lately, the laundry ritual has lengthened a bit, with more products added to the process, like fabric softener and (last year) sanitizer. Narasimhan says consumers are looking for customized solutions for their specific needs.

“Like all other categories, be it skin care, hair care or laundry, consumers are increasingly aware and are looking for personalized solutions for their specific needs. There is no “one size fits all” approach. On one end of the spectrum, there are consumers who want specialized formats and benefits, making their rituals more elaborate, ”Narasimhan says.

“On the other hand, there are consumers who are looking for more practical ‘all-in-one’ solutions. Through our portfolio of brands and offers, we aim to serve these two sets of consumers by offering them multiple solutions to choose from, ”she concludes.

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