Dettol, Savlon bottle safety, battle perceptions in new campaigns

Dettol’s new line has mothers as the face of the brand
Two brands that have spent a lifetime in the country are caught in the whirlwind of shifting customer perceptions. Dettol owned by Reckitt Benckiser (RB) and Savlon that was acquired by ITC from J&J in 2015 have both spent more than half a decade in the country, positioning their brands as trusted aides in household safety. But as safety acquires a whole new meaning for the core audiences the brands serve (mothers and children) and regulators take a hard look at the claims of protection against germs made by these brands, the two are doubling down on their efforts to reassure and retain their customers.

For mothers, the use of a daily disinfectant in their household routine now comes with an added concern: chemicals in the formulation. RB is addressing this in its new campaign for the Dettol disinfectants range, which it says has been co-created with mothers.

For ITC, the challenge with Savlon is different. While the antiseptic liquid continues to grow consistently in line with the category, the company claims, it is eager to turn Savlon into a Rs 500 crore brand. This calls for a larger geographical footprint and wider range of extensions. It has thus sought to focus on brand recall with Boman Irani as an ambassador-influencer and a purpose-led campaign.

Dettol co-created with Moms” has been introduced without parabens (a chemical preservative) and dyes, the company spokesperson said. “We conducted market surveys among over 800 mothers. The millennial moms came back to us with the kind of ingredients they wanted and we undertook the process of creating the product as per their wishes,” said Pankaj Duhan, chief marketing officer, RB South Asia Health. “Effective germ kill as a continuous brand promise and innovative product design and communication initiatives to induce a behavioural change in hand hygiene have been at the core of Savlon’s brand journey,” said Sameer Satpathy, divisional chief executive, Personal Care Products Business, ITC Ltd.

The brands, say experts are also strengthening the positioning platform with an eye on the regulators, for there have been reports of regulatory authorities examining the protection claims being made in the category.

Boman Irani helms the campaign for Savlon
Saurabh Uboweja, CEO of Brands of Desire, a brand consulting firm believes that the battle for customer mindspace in the $5 billion personal hygiene market is most intense in one of its most dominant sub-categories led by soaps and sanitizers. Within this sub-category, the disinfectant-based hand hygiene products are amongst the fastest growing where Dettol, Lifebuoy, Savlon and Protekt are the leading brands. “Dettol is the most dominant  and the only one to successfully extend itself to related and unrelated categories such as bath soap and shaving products. The common denominator being the disinfectant positioning it derives from antiseptic liquids that it originally stood for,” he adds. 

The implication is that Dettol’s approach would necessarily be different from that of a brand such as Savlon, which he believes since 2015 has become even more keenly focused on children. Dettol is looking to protect the positioning of trust and safety for not just its antiseptic liquids but also for the range of extensions under the label. For Savlon, on the other hand, the brand promise is best extended by aligning with popular causes and creating larger recall.

Satpathy says that Irani was chosen because his persona resonates well with parents and children alike. “His intuitive comic timing and affable repartee with children, make the stories memorable,” he added. Uboweja said that like most FMCG categories here too, the market is divided between 4-5 competitors, with one dominant leader. In this case, it is Dettol but there is sufficient space and possibilities for newer and emerging challenger brands.

Both Savlon and Dettol have sharply defined their consumer groups and hence their attempts to shore up trust would differ too. But by focusing so keenly on one customer group, the brands are also steering down a risky road. For instance, Uboweja said, Dettol has clearly taken a sharply defined detour towards mothers aiming to create a totally distinct and segment-focused product brand. Such a move could cannibalize the sales and equity of its own products branded under Dettol, he added.