On the cusp of a century: Boroline

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | October 28, 2009
The Indian antiseptic cream brand has, over the course of 80 years, created a pool of fierce loyalists. Armed with a new pack and a young brand endorser, Boroline outlines its plans to stay relevant to modern India

Boroline antiseptic cream has come a long way since its launch in the pre-Independence era, in 1929: the winter cream that hails from West Bengal has, over the years, become a family brand trusted by generations. It has enjoyed a long period of intense monopoly in East India, has survived stiff competition from international brands and me-toos, and been part of the Superbrands India list for 2003-05. All this has been accomplished with minimal alteration in its look/packaging and a wholesale driven strategy for a long time.

As GD Pharmaceuticals' flagship brand completes 80 years this year, it seeks to become more relevant to modern India by launching a trendier pack in addition to its tube, strengthening nationwide distribution, and releasing a pan-India campaign which will feature Boroline's first brand endorser ever - actor Raima Sen. afaqs! reports.

Creating brand advocates

Boroline has a strong penetration in East Indian markets such as West Bengal, Assam and Orissa. In its initial years, word of mouth is what made the brand popular - of course, this was helped by the fact that back in 1929, it was perhaps the only cream of its type available. In the 1950s, Boroline eyed its communication in an organised way, with the strapline 'Tender Face Cream' (positioned as a cosmetic face cream).

In the '60s, customer feedback made the company realise there was a change in the way the product was being consumed - it was graduating from a face cream to a multi-purpose cream for the skin, particularly for curing intense dryness, and the brand then represented 'Boroline for the skin. The skin needs Boroline'. Print and radio heavy advertising dominated this period. During the '60s, Boroline became a national brand from a purely East-driven one. Since then, it has been advertised in many major Indian languages.

The '70s saw the brand becoming more aggressive, with 'Boroline has no substitute', while in the early '80s, it moved beyond a purely cosmetic purpose and became 'The hard working cream that protects your skin'. Later into the decade, it shifted gears with 'In a world full of surprises, thank goodness you can count on Boroline'.

With the emergence of aggressive competition (particularly sophisticated me-too brands) in the '90s, Boroline asserted its position with 'The Original'. "Yes, there was a setback in this period due to me-too products. But the efficacy of the product and our loyal user base helped us get out of the hard times," Debashis Dutta, managing director, GD Pharmaceuticals, tells afaqs!.

In the late '90s, it reinstated its skincare positioning with 'Boroline skin. Healthy skin'. At the beginning of the new millennium, Boroline took to the 'wow' factor with 'Boroline works wonders'.

"We have always altered our positioning with the changing times. All our taglines actually come from customer experiences with the product," Dutta adds. Consistency has been the key for Boroline - the brand hasn't changed its trademark green and white packaging and logo since its launch, save for a few subtle changes in 2004. This is because many Indians who may be illiterate recognise the brand only by the colours on its packaging. According to research by the company, any kind of major variation is not something that will sit well with consumers at large.

This is the very same reason why Boroline has limited its product offering to just a skin cream, and not ventured into brand extensions. "Consumer insights reveal that Boroline is entrenched in their minds as the thick cream - they won't be comfortable with the notion that Boroline is also a light lotion or hair oil," Dutta shrugs. Which is why GD Pharma's other three brands - Eleen (hair oil), Suthol (anti-septic liquid) and Penorub (pain-relieving ointment) - may carry 'Boroline' as a pre-fix to serve as a reminder (like Boroline's Eleen) but not as a compulsion to the brand name. Further, these three products are purely East India-led, and there are no plans to take them national just yet.

Generation gap?

An average Boroline user will perhaps carry tales of how the brand was passed on to him/her by elders in the family. One would think the brand's core TG (target group) would be the middle-aged/older segment, which brings with it the limitation of a shorter life span as compared to the youth, and in turn, lesser consumption time. "We have never targeted the older generation, neither do our ads reflect that," explains Mahashweta Dutta, director, GD Pharmaceuticals.

According to her, the need for this product (the problem of intense dryness and skin problems) usually begins from the age of 25-30, so Boroline is not looking at targeting teenagers in the first place. "I would find a 'young adult' of 25 to be a beginner with Boroline. The younger lot is likely to experiment with other creams early on, and settle onto a thicker cream at that age," Mahashweta shrugs.

She attributes the perception (that Boroline is one for the elders) to the fact that competition has always directly addressed the youth, which led Boroline to be seen in a certain way. "But in fact, our feedback mechanism shows that over time, young people have been using our product," Mahashweta says, "but yes, this has not been adequately conveyed due to a communication gap from our end in certain parts of the country."

The brand had even cast Swaroop Sampat as a model in its adverts when she had won the title of 'Miss India'. She represented the modern woman of those times. However, despite such efforts, in the rest of the country (apart from East India), Mahashweta concedes that while the brand awareness is high, the relevance of the product in the younger end of its target group has been forgotten. To fill this lack of communication, Boroline has now signed on Raima Sen as its first ever brand endorser for a two year period.

Keeping up with the times

Boroline will now sport a new baseline - 'Wake up to a happy skin with Boroline' - which hopes to increase its consumption as a night cream for modern India (and hence the 'Wake up').

Incidentally, the brand wasn't actively looking for a brand endorser. "We came across an article in a print publication where Raima Sen answered some rapid questions. Under five personal care products she can't do without, one of her answers was Boroline," says Debashis Dutta - a fact that made the company realise that the actor is a regular user. "As she is young, famous and represents the very same modern Indian generation we are hoping to be more relevant to, we approached her." Sen tells afaqs! she has been a regular user of the brand for the last seven years. The only other brand she currently endorses is D'damas.

Boroline brought aboard Chennai based Salt Creatives as its agency about four months ago. As Jaju Krishnankutty, creative director, Salt Creatives, reveals, "The new communication will have Sen sharing how the brand has become a daily ritual for her, with a storyline woven in."

The 30-second commercial, shot by Anil Mehta (of 'Lagaan' fame) and directed by Saurabh Ghosh of Clique Pictures, shall be aired on television towards the end of the year, during the peak winter season. GD Pharma plans to spend Rs 25 crore during FY 2009-10 on Boroline's advertising.

Boroline has also introduced a new travel friendly pack for the youth - a small, 10 gram container (dibbi) - the launch of which will be announced through a ten-second ad featuring Sen. The campaign will be aired mainly on GECs, followed by heavy print advertising (nationally). Radio, too, will follow later.

In addition to this, the brand is also working towards strengthening its distribution in markets other than the Eastern region. It also plans to go international in about a year to cater to the NRI belt. "There's quite a demand for Boroline in London, New York and West Asia - the brand travels there, although we don't do direct exports in these regions," says Dutta. Currently, 10 per cent of its revenue comes from international consumption.

© 2009 afaqs!