Saturday, March 06, 2010

Brand Update : Rin Vs Tide , The Strategy

According to latest news report, the Calcutta High Court has restrained HUL from airing the controversial campaign against Tide. HUL has been given 72 hours to comply with the order ( Source)

The high decibel comparative ad of Rin generated huge buzz in the market. The direct comparative campaign evoked mixed reaction across the media. That single controversial ad generated crores worth of buzz about the brands in question.

The current high profile aggressive stand of Rin has a background story. There was a proxy war going on between Rin and Tide since December 2009. During December, P&G launched the low priced variant of Tide branded Tide Naturals. Tide Naturals was priced significantly lower to the Rin. Tide Naturals was launched at Rs 50 per Kg , Rs 10 for 200 gms and Rs 20 for400 gms. Rin was priced at Rs 70 per Kg at that time.

The reduced price of the Tide variant was an immediate threat to Rin. Since Tide already has an established brand equity, Rin was bound to face the heat. Although HUL had another low priced brand Wheel priced at Rs 32/Kg, Tide was not in the same category of Wheel.

Rin had to cut the price to resist the market share erosion. As discussed elsewhere in the blog, HUL was facing a steady erosion in the market share in most of the categories. In the detergent category itself, the brand faced a market share fall of 2.5% in December 2009. With P&G starting a price war, HUL had to react and it did by cutting the price of Rin by 30% to Rs 50 per Kg. ( Source ) .

HUL also reacted to the Tide Natural's price war in a ' Guerrilla Marketing ' way. It took P&G to the court regarding the Tide Natural's advertisement. The contention was that Tide Naturals was giving the impression to the consumers that it contained natural ingredients like Sandal. The court ordered P&G to modify the campaign and P&G had to admit that Tide Naturals did not contain any Natural ingredients. ( another example of a brand swaying over to unethical marketing practices).

While P&G opened a war in the price front, HUL retaliated by opening two war fronts. One was the direct comparative ad and other through the court order asking P&G to modify Tide Naturals Ad and to admit that Tide Naturals is not ' Natural'.

I think that it was Rin which won the Round 1 of this war. It generated enough Buzz about the brand with all the media talking about the campaign. Rin was also able to neutralize the aggression of P&G to certain extent.

Tide chose not to respond because further fuel to the fight can highlight the fact that Tide Naturals does not contain any 'Natural Ingredients " which may negatively affect the brand's standing in the consumer's mind. So it is better to play the role of a " poor" victim at this point of time.

P&G can celebrate because of the free advertisement it got for Tide Naturals because of the comparative ad of Rin.

It is interesting to see the academic angle of this concept called Comparative advertising. From my little digging of information, it was evident that the academic research is also clueless about the effectiveness of comparative advertising. There are enough evidence to prove that comparative ads work better than non-comparative ads and vice versa. So academicians are as clueless as the practitioners in this regard.

According to academic literature, Comparative ads are those ads which involves directly or indirectly naming competitors in an ad and comparing one or more attributes in an advertising medium ( Alan T. Shao, Yeqing Bao, and Elizabeth Gray,Comparative Advertising Effectiveness:A Cross-Cultural Study Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, Fall 2004)

There are two broad types of comparative ads. One is the Direct comparative ads which compares the competitor in more than one attribute. The second type is the Indirect comparative ad which projects the brand as the Leading Brand rather than comparing on certain attributes.

In the marketing world ( globally) comparative ads are commonly used across categories. Some of the relevant observations regarding comparative ads are given below.

  • Comparative ads are perceived to be beneficial to the consumers since more information is provided to him by the competitors. Comparative ads are encouraged in certain markets like USA by the regulators because it increases transparency and provides more information to consumers.

  • The comparative ads generally result in counter arguments which often creates such a noise that it discounts the original argument/information. Consumers tend to discount the claims by both the competing brand because of the arguments.

  • Comparative advertising strategy is more effective for smaller brands rather than established large brands. By challenging a larger brand through comparative ad , the small brands tend to derive more acceptance and awareness than the larger brand.

  • Comparative ads are found to be more effective for categories where consumers tend to use their analytical mind. Comparative ads tend to fail where consumers use imagery while evaluating the brands. For example, products like automobiles use comparative ads extensively and with effectiveness.
  • There are also studies which shows that male consumers are more attracted towards comparative ads compared to female consumers.

Although Indian marketing world have seen lot of comparative ads, the current Rin Vs Tide is a rare case of direct comparative ad where the brand has taken the competitor brand's name and challenging it head on. That is the main reason behind the media noise about the campaign.

P&G India always was a laid back competitor in the FMCG market . Despite having the product portfolio and market strength , it never realized its potential. The company was happy with their minuscule market share in the various categories in the FMCG business . I am not sure whether P&G will react aggressively to the current HUL onslaught and if at all they did ,will it sustain the fight for long.

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