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200 Years of Purity & Innocence

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Pears-6Born on the streets of Soho, London, Pears- world’s first translucent soap is still in business more than 200 years after its birth. The brand owes its name to its founder Andrew Pears who first produced and sold it in 1789 in London. As per Unilever’s records, it is the first registered brand which makes it the oldest continuing brand. Over more than 200 years of existence Pears has continued with its tradition of purity and pristine appeal. Pears was introduced in British India in 1902 and was acquired by Lever brothers later in 1917. Since then it is being sold in India under the umbrella of Hindustan Unilever (HUL). Since its inception in India, the brand has been positioned as pure and gentle, where the transparency of the soap acts as the visual cue for purity and glycerine highlights its gentle appeal. There is an elaborate process of manufacturing and ageing which takes about three months, after which it reaches a state of pure transparency. The manufacturing process has remained by and large constant for over 200 years. In the initial years HUL tried to ride on the past strength of Pears. Over the years Pears had shown pretty, sweet little girls with a line that said “waiting to be beautiful”. HUL did away with that approach since it positioned Pears as a children’s soap and came up with a campaign that highlighted product attributes. The ad showed a girl, looking through Pears and saying “A soap so pure you can see through it… only Pears lets you know how pure it is”. The campaign talked about only product features and did not create a memorable brand image. Keeping this in mind HUL came up with a number of ad campaigns in an effort to create a brand image. In late 70’s HUL launched a new ad campaign featuring 5 year old Pooja Bhatt with a tagline- ‘rang roop mein balpan’. The ad used mother-daughter relationship as a metaphor, to highlight the purity and innocence of the product. Since then by and large all campaigns have been built around the purity and innocence of mother-daughter relationship. Box-1 How Pears came into existence Andrew Pears, the founder of the soap was a practicing barber in Soho, London. Soho was a wealthy residential area and Andrew’s clients, wealthy people from the socitey who were conscious of their appearance. He realized that his products (powder and cream) were used by people to cover up the skin damage. Consequently he came up with a glycrine based gentle soap. The reformulation controversy Taking a step forward towards innovation Unilever changed the formulation of the product in 2009, which turned out to be an unwise move. Pears loyalists criticized the addition of chemicals to its traditional 200-year-old formula. A facebook campaign called ‘Bring Back The Original Pears Soap’ made it obligatory for Unilever to get back to the original formulation.

HUL has tried to strengthen the brand with two variants: Blue for Germ fighting and Green for Oil Control and a range of face washes and hand washes. Pears is a premium segment soap and has a niche audience. In India, the brand has retained its popularity because of its emotional positioning and different look. The brand continues to use the innocence and purity of a mother-daughter relationship. Constantly Pears has worked around this image which is evident in its TVCs titled ‘Naki-Naki’ and ‘Masoom Pears’.   CHALLENGES The premium soap market holds around 15-20 percent of Rs. 8500-Crore Indian toilet soap industry while mass-market soap industry has around 45 per cent share. The market is flooded with several, national and global brands and a large number of small brands, intensifying the competition across various segments.

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