Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) has taken a dig at Reckitt Benckiser through the latest campaign, which demonstrates the benefits of Domex Fresh Guard Disinfectant Toilet Cleaner in the toilet cleaner category over Reckitt’s Harpic. In a statement to the media, HUL said that Domex aims to challenge the generic consumer mentality skewed towards toilet cleaners that do not serve the purposes of long-lasting freshness and effective disinfection on toilet surfaces.
The campaign features actor Divyanka Tripathi in the Hindi Version and Revathy in the Tamil version. The spot opens in a supermarket scenario where a consumer is forced to reconsider her toilet cleaner purchase when her son questions her product choice. The premise is simple, questioning Harpic as a toilet cleaner brand and if it helps in containing malodour and disinfects the toilet over a more extended period of time.
HUL has taken slots in major media houses to run the campaign. On Saturday, the campaign appeared as front-page ads in major English newspapers. Even the regional dailies received the ad shares. HUL is running extensive digital campaigns for the brand.
The campaign has brought Comparative advertisements, which was the thing of the past, to the centre stage again. This is not the first time that Reckitt and HUL are involved in a battle of comparative ads. In 2013, Reckitt launched Dettol Kitchen Gel, and soon they launched a campaign comparing it with HUL’s Vim. Though HUL applied for a stay order with Calcutta High Court, it was denied. HUL retaliated with Print ads which claimed that their Lifebuoy works better than Reckitts’s Dettol antiseptic liquid.
Another campaign by German personal-care brand Sebamed claimed that its cleansing bar is better than soaps offered by HUL, like Dove, Pears and Lux. It also compared Lux and Pears with Rin, a detergent bar, inferring that HUL’s products are inferior to Sebamed. HUL lost the legal battle when the Bombay High Court said that Sebamed can continue the comparative advertisements. In February 2021, the Supreme Court dismissed the special petition by Hindustan Unilever and refused to stay the Bombay HC order.
What are the repercussions going to be caused by the recent Domex campaign by HUL?
According to Laeeq Ali, Co-Founder & Director, Origami Creative and Bloombox Brand Engineers, The Domex ad will surely bring the possibility of comparative advertising to increased focus.
“Comparative ads used to be a thing of the past, till the regulatory bodies started putting controlling measures to avoid the baseless attack. This Domex ad will surely bring the possibility of comparative advertising to increased focus, especially for the real challenger brands. With accurate comparison being possible, it’s time market leaders watch out for more such advertisements coming at them in the near future. If dealt with in the right manner, I sense this as a great opportunity, especially for homegrown brands to challenge the biggies and carve out additional market share,” Laeeq said.
‘If you look at the category dynamics, this is a very apt strategy that has been adapted by Domex’, opines Suresh Mohankumar, Partners, The Strategy School.
“Despite everything that has happened over the last six to seven years – Swachh Bharat and the hyper-focus on germs due to COVID – toilet cleaner penetration remains low. So, while Harpic is focused on building the category, Domex wants consumers to move on from Harpic. If Harpic chooses to retaliate through a communication burst, then it takes its focus away from category creation. Well thought out campaign from Domex; could lure Harpic into doing something they don’t need to do,” observes Suresh.
According to brand expert & CEO of TRA, N Chandramouli, the current campaign exposes HUL’s double standards
Detailing on the statement, he took the Sebamed- HUL legal battle as an example.
“Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) has taken the legal route to prohibit German personal care brand Sebamed to air its ad campaign targeting HUL’s beauty care brands Lux and Dove. Though Domex has a significant market share in the disinfectant category internationally, When it comes to India, Domex very clearly has only a minimal share.
In India, Harpic claims a 70 percent share in the disinfectant category. The new ad by Domex is hardly creative and portrays Domex’s desperation to grab eyeballs. According to me, Reckitt and Benckiser, the parent company of Harpic, shouldn’t react with a counter-campaign,” Chandramouli said.
While HUL has highlighted the add-on feature available with Domex, they have cautiously avoided defamation elements. Will this trigger another war of ads between the brands?
“The toilet bowl wars have begun! Each of these brands will gain in the bargain, as advertising effort gets stoked by all the discussions this will raise as a ruckus in social media,” says Brand Guru Harish Bijoor.
According to a recent TAM Adex Report on Household products, Toilet/Floor Cleaners and Household Cleaners together accounted for more than 70% of the ad volume share of the Household Products sector on Television. Reckitt Benckiser accounts for around 69 percent of TV ads and HUL a share of 9 percent. Reckitt Benckiser was the top advertiser in the print medium with a 10 percent share. If Reckitt is planning to retaliate with a counter-campaign, then the Media houses and agencies will benefit from the Toilet Bowl war between Harpic and Domex.