Hindustan Unilver Ltd ( HUL ) is a master marketer. The owner of some of the iconic brands in the Indian FMCG space, I used to look at the marketing practices of this company with a sense of awe and admiration.
And at the same time, this is a company known for getting the brands & consumers into a state of utter confusion. In the name of change, HUL brand mandarins experiment with their brands and some of the strategies can drive Philip Kotler to suicide.
Take the case of Rin. Rin is a power brand in the HUL's brand portfolio. This 500 crore brand is deeply etched in the mind of the Indian consumer with its strong association with whiteness.
Then there is the iconic Surf. The brand has remained in the top slot thanks to sustained product and communication innovation.
Now in the past two years, HUL has been trying to find out how to mess up these two brands in the detergent cake market.
In April 2007 , HUL had initiated a process to migrate Rin Supreme to Surf Excel bar. The brand migration was a high profile one. The ads screamed : Rin Supreme is now Surf Excel.
After a couple of months later, ads of Rin detergent cake began to pop up in TV. Now there is a high profile campaign featuring Bomman Irani for Rin Advanced Detergent cake. So Rin detergent cake is still alive ?
The new ad talks about Sabooth ( proof ) of whiteness. Now Rin Advanced comes with a whiteness chart which will prove to the consumers that Rin offers better whiteness than other cakes.
So what about Surf Excel bar and Rin Supreme ?
Well . I suppose I need to take a lesson on brand portfolio management from HUL .
Ok Lets go back to history of this brand . During early 2000, Rin had two variants Rin Shakthi and Rin Supreme. Shakthi was a low priced detergent cake and Supreme was the premium variant ( Product line extensions ). Some where down the line, HUL dropped Rin Shakthi . Then in 2004, Rin Shakthi was relaunched as Rin Advanced.
Then in 2007 Rin Supreme was migrated to Surf Excel.
For What ? Frankly speaking I am clueless. Is it a brand rationalisation or brand confusion ?
The result of all these is visible in the Economic Times' Brand Equity Survey results for the last 4 years.
Rin was featured among top ten brands in the list during 2004,2005 & 2006. In 2004, the brand was in number 8 , in 2006 the brand was in number 3 and in 2006 the brand was in number 9.
In 2008, Rin was not even in the top 20 list , it had the rank of 21.
As a customer I walked into a super market in 2000 to buy a detergent cake. I see two variants of Rin : Supreme and Shakthi. I take Shakthi and happily walk away.
In 2004 I walk into the store to buy Rin Shakthi and I find that Rin Shakthi is not there but there is Rin Advanced and Rin Supreme. I walk away with Rin Supreme.
In 2006 I walk into the store to buy Rin Supreme , I find that now Rin Supreme is Surf Excel . I walk away with Tide detergent cake.
In 2008 , I still buy Tide.
If your strategy cannot be explained in one minute, then your strategy is not worth considering.
Rin Migration to surf