Saturday, March 08, 2008

Smyle : It does Wonders

Brand : Smyle
Company : Maneesh Pharmaceuticals


Brand Analysis Count : 314

Smyle is one of the popular brands in the OTC market in India. This 60 crore brand earlier belonged to Kopran Pharma and was later sold to Maneesh Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Smyle as the name suggests was firts launched in the Oral care market. Its most popular product was Smyle Mouth Ulcer Gel. Smyle was one of the first OTC ayurvedic Mouth Ulcer Gel. The product achieved instant popularity because of its effectiveness.
Mouth Ulcers are a common irritating disease . The reason for mouth ulcers can be many : digestive problems, vitamin deficiency, accidental biting, use of heavy antibiotics etc. Once it is there, it causes severe pain and one will not be able to eat anything till the ulcer get cured. Normally we used to treat this ourselves using some home remedy like applying coconut oil etc. Usually one will resort to medical advice only in case of severe ulcers.
But the medicines that are usually prescribed for Mouth Ulcers tastes too bad and often smells bad also. This has opened up a new untapped market for a user friendly product.
Smyle Mouth Ulcer Gel had lot of advantages. First was that it tasted pretty OK and hence the customers did not mind using the product again and again. Secondly Smyle was ayurvedic and hence perceived to be side - effects free. Thirdly , the product was very effective.
These advantages created lot of equity for this product. But the market was small and Smyle Gel was essentially a niche brand. Smyle ulcer gel was promoted heavily through TV and print ads. I still remember a TVC which shows a guy screaming with pain inside a cinema hall while having a popcorn.
What was interesting is the way in which the brand owners extended the brand " Smyle " . I don't know the exact hierarchy of the launch of these extensions but here is the list of brand extensions of Smyle :
Smyle Mouth Ulcer GEl
Smyle Toothpaste
Smyle Prickly heat powder
Smyle throat reliever
Baby Smyle range of baby soaps
Baby Smyle baby powder
Smyle Lozenges
Smyle vaporub
Smyle Freshness talc
Smyle first aid kits
Smyle band-aid
Smyle nasal inhaler.

All these products were launched in a span of four years. Common sense says that the brand extensions was too many too fast.Smyle extending itself into powder and baby products does not make sense because the parent brand Smyle does not have a strong brand equity to support these category extensions.
Marketing theory suggests that inorder for a brand to extend into multiple categories, the parent brand should have strong relevant brand equity aswellas brand values. Smyle as a parent brand did not had such extendable brand equity. What Smyle had was a successful product.
Smyle Toothpaste made sense because Smyle was associated with Oral-Care . But there also the brand did not invest on building a positioning platform but tried to become a price- warrior. Fighting the giants like Colgate, HUL and Dabur needs more than low price.
While the throat lozenges and cough syrup extensions had a connection with oral-care, the brand had to break into the strong hold of power brand like Vicks. Smyle throat reliever had a USP of Gargle and Gulp property but I feel that the brand lacked power to compete with Vicks.

Having extended so much into so many products, Smyle may have shown an increase in the cumulative sales but in the long run, there is a chance that the brand may bleed itself to death. With out developing a core brand, too much energy has been spent on these brand extensions. Successful umbrella brands like Vicks and Johnson & Johnson have unmatched core- brand strentgh which Smyle lacks. Smyle as a brand had lot of advantages like a good brand name and a successful product . The brand could have leveraged the Smyle name and could have built a strong brand image taking some time . For example Smyle can take meaning of Smile from relief, enjoying life , freedom from pain , instant relief etc. Once that core values are built, these extensions could have worked . I am not saying that the extensions of Smyle has failed but I have a feeling that the brand will be wasting too much money over building these individual extensions since Smyle lacks a core equity.

For every brand manager, its always a dilemma choosing between investing in a brand Vs showing high sales figures. In this era of managing brands on a quarterly basis, investing in building brands takes the back seat.