The ‘Kharidaari Mai Samajhdari’ icon for Surf, Marketing & Advertising News, AND BrandEquity

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Kaveta Chaudhary as Lalitaji

By Chehneet Kaur

Our retro spirits have always saved detergent for ‘doodh si safedi Nirma se aaye’ and ‘Pehle istemaal kare fir vishwaas kare ‘ but there was another icon from another rival detergent brand that had owned our hearts for years. Can you guess who it might be?

Well yes, it was a mature woman in a shiny white sari and a typical Indian bun with a large bindi. She was the iconic – Lalitaji for Surf.

In a time of calm and restrained women, Lalitaji was an icon who represented an informed, outspoken and confident woman. This middle class icon has made a name for himself in every Indian household with his belief in going for better quality instead of cheaper price.

Going back in time, you’ll be surprised to know that Lalitaji was not the desired option for Lintas. Shunu Sen, then chief marketing officer, dismissed the idea of ​​Lalithaji’s character, saying it was not Lever’s advertising style. Alyque Padamsee, who incorporated this iconic character, has advocated to lead the campaign with her. It was due to the lack of other campaign ideas that Lalitaji was released as a last resort.

Alyque Padamsee
Alyque Padamsee

In a series of advertisements, she is shown negotiating for every penny in order to effectively run a household. The voiceover then asks her why she is buying a little more expensive detergent in this case. To this she explains by giving the difference between choosing a cheap product and choosing a quality product. “Isliye toh Surf ki karidari mai hi samajhdaari hai,“Lalitaji said next.

According to Usha Bhandarkar, a former student of Lintas, the brand did not intend Lalitaji to be such a well-educated, knowledgeable and intelligent woman. But that’s what people took away from her personality. The audience read between the lines of this character who was also not envisioned by the creators. “This campaign, which was to run as tactical ads only until Levers could fight his other brands, actually lasted for many years,” Bhandarkar said in a press release.

Kaveta Chaudhary aka Lalitaji now
Kaveta Chaudhary aka Lalitaji now

Padamsee shared with KV Sridhar, former Creative Director at Leo Burnett, how he discovered the idea for such a character. He noticed that his mother got out of a Mercedes and continued to negotiate with the greengrocer. When asked why, Padamsee’s mother explained “beta achi cheez aur sasti cheez mai fark hota hai, ”And so this value for money attitude was incorporated into Lalitaji’s DNA.

During the 1970s, Nirma dominated the market by a huge leap. Before Lalitaji, Unilever’s Surf was not very successful in the market competing with Nirma. After the launch of the campaign, the brand managed to break Nirma’s dominance based on a single character. This was a remarkable Levers marketing move that is recorded in history for centuries to come.

This is the marketing magic that mascots can bring to their branding campaigns. They help audiences and brands to associate, which makes them a strong communication medium. Watch the announcement here:


(BE Saal Baad is a new series that goes back in time)


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