Sebamed vs HUL: Comparative advertising done right?

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Industry observers weigh in on the ad-war and who actually gains from this one

Industry observers weigh in on the ad-war and who actually gains from this one

e4mby Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Jan 12, 2021 10:20 AM

When personal care brand Sebamed waged a battle against its competitor HUL claiming that its cleansing bar is better than the latter’s, it definitely created chatter. While ads very often claim that a particular company’s products are superior, Sebamed directly named HUL’s brands such as Dove, Rin, Pears and Lux. As for HUL, it responded with a newspaper advertisement of its own, which claimed dermatologists trusted Dove. The brand’s response to its competitor said, “Our brands are best-in-class & deliver fully on the promises…backed by strong tech, science, clinical evidence & decades of expert and consumer-backed testing, enjoying strong brand loyalty. We will take suitable action as we deem fit.” Is it comparative advertising done right?

Industry observers weigh in on the ad-war and who actually gains from this one.

Harish Bijoor, Brand-strategy expert & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults finds it an interesting battle. Bijoor believes that a rebuttal by HUL will only go to SebaMed‘s gain, rather than to its detriment. “There is nothing left for HUL to refute on the science of it. HUL can maintain the stiff upper lip on this. Possibly a way to react,” he opines.

Samit Sinha, Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting lauds Sebamed for its pluck in taking Unilever on in an unexpected way, which he feels at least assured them brand visibility on a modest budget against Unilever’s massive advertising spends. “The Unilever brands have been built over a long period of time and have strong legacies behind them. The company also has a formidable sales and distribution infrastructure and amongst the largest retail networks in the country. This makes the Unilever brands Teflon-coated to a great extent. I would doubt very much if a relatively obscure brand would be able to make a dent in Unilever’s market share in soaps, no matter how factually accurate its claims maybe,” Sinha adds.

Sebamed released its latest ad which sees women lounging around in a bathing area setting in luxurious clothes (often seen in beauty soap ads).

They explain that beauty soaps such as Lux, Pears, and Santoor have the same pH levels as dishwashing soap bar Rin. They place a strip of litmus paper on all the soaps in question to illustrate their point.The campaign is titled Filmstars kee nahi, science kee suno – a clear reference to Lux soap which has always been known as the ‘filmstars soap’ in the past.

Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman and Managing Director, Samsika remarks that the situation calls for HUL to respond and but not react. “This is a typical case of a challenger trying to hit and draw out a reaction from a leader. Years of brand loyalty and emotional connect is better than moving towards a technical turf. Sometimes, a majestic leadership silence is an appropriate response,” says Kapoor.

“The personal care industry has always been conditioned to follow standard beauty practices in order to make it appealing to the consumers. However, when we came across Sebamed and what the brand wanted to convey to its consumers, we decided to communicate the product truth through our campaign, without any silver coating. Striking the right balance between the bandwagon fallacy and authenticity, the brand is building a connection with its consumers through demonstration-based advertising with an honest approach,” The Womb, the agency that conceptualised the campaign, told Exchange4Media.

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Misbaah Mansuri

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