No hint of Chaplin: Cherry Blossom tells a new story in its digital pitch

A screengrab from the advertisement of Cherry Blossom shoe polish
Old habits die hard but as Cherry Blossom, the shoe polish brand from British multinational consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser, is discovering, once they do disappear, it can be tough reinstating the ritual. In its latest campaign, the brand, is urging people to go back to what was once an everyday routine. And by doing so, the hundred-plus year old brand is looking to reclaim its position in consumer’s lives as a daily habit.   

Interestingly the campaign that addresses working class Indians, across geographies, is being released only on digital platforms at the moment. As experts point out, the need to reaffirm the brand’s status is most acute for the 20-45 age group and these customers are largely present online. 

Not only has the brand chosen a different platform to speak from, it is also presenting a different story around itself. Instead of the nostalgic references to the brand’s presence in the country and its famous mascot, the tramp played by Charlie Chaplin, the narrative focuses on the positive impact of polishing  shoes. ‘Polish to shine’ is the tagline. Sukhleen Aneja, CMO and marketing director, Hygiene Home-South Asia, Reckitt Benckiser said, “Over the years shoe polishing as a category has started to fade from public memory and the onus of re-igniting growth lies with the company.” 

Shoe polishes face the threat of being forgotten on the shelf and soon to being forgotten as a category altogether. This is the premise of the ads. The first film has a school girl highlight how polishing shoes  stands in for values such as being responsible and disciplined. The second ad has a father-son bantering over the need to look one’s best and going out in polished shoes. 

“Our endeavour is to increase the importance of polishing shoes in the consumer’s life especially amongst children and office goers,” said Aneja. 

The last campaign was in 2006 for the completion of 100 years of Cherry Blossom shoe polish, which was launched in 1906 in the UK. The ‘100 shining years’ campaign was based on the Charlie Chaplin theme. 

The brand is not only looking to get people to go back to the old ‘polish and shine’ routine, but is also hoping to upstage competitor Kiwi that has upped its presence in the retail stores significantly in recent years. 

The ads this time round are more purpose driven and the intention is to make it more relatable. Harish Bijoor, founder-CEO Bijoor Consults said that there are two ways of advertising, functional and emotional. “Normally brands tend to yo-yo between these two depending on the need. In the case of Cherry Blossom, it is a basic shoe polish. But after having built the brand, the next step is to make it the brand of choice. What the brand now does is it look at the functionality of really well polished shoes and whether one can make shoe polishing a desired activity.”

Few dispute the leadership status of Cherry Blossom in the market. One of its rivals said that there are very few brands that have survived with the same leadership for 100-plus years and maintained a near-generic recall in the market. It is critical therefore that the brand not just tackle competition with a message proclaiming to be better, or older, but take a stand that urges people to think Cherry Blossom every time they think of stepping out of home.

“We have a loyal set of customers who would reach out for our brand irrespective of any other options available. With the new campaign, our aim is more to reach out to a wider audience,” said Aneja.

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