Products and inventions which once seemed revolutionary now turn rapidly towards the force of obsoleteness. The computer for instance, which was once the most outstanding machine eventually surrendered to Obsoleteness as new technologies such as smartphones and laptops almost wiped off its existence.
And yet, while products such as computers eventually fade into a page of history, the “classics” and the “rebels” always leave indelible marks in the minds of consumers.
Take Marlboro for instance, a brand with a modest beginning in early 1920s, catering to American women with a slogan that read “Mild as May”. It was only around the 50s that Marlboro underwent a “sex change” by repositioning itself to target American men. Their iconic campaign of the Marlboro mascot not only immortalized the brand but also created a new lifestyle among American men. This popular campaign still stands today because it embodies a universal identity of Masculinity. The campaign not only prompted the cigarette and tobacco industry to weave the theme of masculinity in their marketing communication but in fact, made it mandatory.
While Marlboro's cowboy continues to live a valiant life in the world of advertising, other brands such as Coca-Cola, Gap and Liril (to name a few) gave in to the temptation of “innovating” at an inopportune time.
Coca-Cola, for example, one of the world's most popular brands which sells nearly 1 billion drinks every single day decided to substitute its most popular drink with a formula that was essentially being altered after 99 years and marketed it as New Coke. This ridiculous and unnecessary ‘innovation' led Coca-Cola towards a wave of angry consumers who refused to acknowledge the brand's “creative attempt”. Furthermore, its original slogan “it's the real thing” received severe criticism from customers who felt cheated and pointed out that if you tell the world you have the “real thing” you cannot then come up with a “new real thing”.
Companies such as Coca-cola are often lured into a kind of gregarious temptation to act or innovate instead of enjoying easy success from the sidelines while others such as Malboro swear by Bert Lance's words of wisdom: “if it ain't broke, don't fix it”.
What Malboro succeeded with American men, Liril did with young Indian housewives.“Freedom”, as vivaciously represented by Karen Lunel was an unexplored need of the typical young Indian housewife who longed to escape her dreary household chores.
A closer look at the waterfall ads, revealed their layered intricacies that tapped into the psyches of Indian women by reinforcing the fact that bathing was no longer a habitual activity but instead an experience or an opportunity to pamper oneself. This was shrewdly complemented with a dual imagery — that of lemons which symbolized freshness as well as Karen boldly sporting a bikini which again represented novelty and a carefree spirit. (At the time, it wasn't as common to see women in bikinis in India). The lush green foliage that lined the waterfalls further contributed to the theme of freshness along with the natural gush of of water under which the beautiful model danced with frolic.
These natural elements worked because of the sensory (perceptual) tangibility they provided to the viewer. The feel of cool water as it raced down Karen's skin accompanied by the breeze that whistled through the forest were successful sensory stimuli that aspired women to feel those stimuli for themselves. The ad was loaded with feel-good-benefits that enticed housewives to experience a new thrill and give in to the emotional appeal baited by the marketer.
Just as the Cowboy served as an excellent classical conditioning stimulus for Malboro, Liril's ‘la lalalalalah' jingle rapidly became synonymous with the brand. This brand recall stimulus was so deeply conditioned in the minds of consumers that even decades later, the tune was able to successfully transport Indians to the picturesque sets of Kodaikanal (where the waterfall ad was shot) and flash an image of the green bathing soap.
Liril's success sprouted from breaking out of traditional cultural norms which defined a woman's place in the kitchen — cooking, cleaning and taking care of the house. But while it brought in a progressive or ‘forward-thinking' perspective to its communication strategy, (which was one of the underlying factors of the brand's success), it soon followed suit Coca-cola and gave in to the temptation to innovate and launch two variants of the soap which were unprofitable catastrophes.
By Contrast, GAP which changed its logo without prior warning sparked quiet sniggering among consumers which eventually snowballed into a massive consumer backlash. Unlike Liril, GAP admitted its mistake and rebranded itself by reverting to its original design in just six days and won back the trust of its customers.
Liril, however missed the bus and adamantly stuck on to casting model after model with the hope of striking the jackpot once again. In addition, it deviated from its core values and gave a ‘modern spin' to its ads in order to win the new generation over. Santoor on the other hand, was another brand which shifted its attention to the new generation by portraying an Indian wife in western wear, without a bindi. This was a risky move since Santoor was a brand that was strongly paired with tradition. But with cultural norms and taboos loosening, consumers didn't perceive this to be completely blasphemous.
After Liril went through a dry spell of confusing consumers and a plummeting market share, it refocused its efforts to finally bring back its original formula of success. Liril attempted to recapture the hearts of women by drifting a nostalgic wave of the waterfall and its original image of freshness.
Liril's brand repositioning strategy (to its original position) was a desperate attempt to regain superiority in the market when it realised that its contemporary counterpart (Liril 2000) was as good as divested.
But brand positioning can be tricky because consumers have an existing perception of the brand. For example, Cadbury Gems which was viewed by consumers as an “always celebrating” brand that targeted kids, repositioned itself to grab the attention of adults with its campaign “Raho Umarless” (Be ageless). This repositioning was a disaster because there was a complete disconnect between the target consumers and the ad.
However, Liril's repositioning via its nostalgic route was advantageous because consumers still remember Liril's original position. In the case of well known brands, if consumers know the original position of the brand it is wise to go back to basics. Most consumers don't relate or even know Coca-Cola's new slogan “Taste your feelings” which is why it should go back to its original position, the real thing.
Liril will require a strategy crafted around innovation if and when consumers no longer follow its nostalgic route. But while this is true of innovating a new product, its communication medium and delivery must adapt to the needs of what consumers desire today. Furthermore, since competitors such as Godrej also market ‘freshness' in their toilet soaps, making ‘freshness' an ordinary element in the minds of consumers today, Liril's emphasis should be centered around the “experience of bathing” which is still a relevant need for women.
Essentially, Liril's success banks on its ability to understand the psychographics of its segment. Bathing as an experience continues to evolve as consumers of today give an increasing importance to their bathrooms. Fancy rain-shower fittings and heated toilet seats are only two examples that enhance the ‘bathroom experience'. Therefore, Liril's prospects are still promising, especially since it is already connected with the “experience and feel-good” component. It's ability to sustain that position and reinforce that idea will help it earn its name back.
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