In the recent past, we spotted ads for Colgate's Cibaca Vedshakti and Hindustan Unilever's Ayurvedic Care variant for Fair & Lovely, among ads for several other Ayurveda-based products from various companies. Is it the big Patanjali effect? Maybe not on the product front, but the recent advertising push for these products might have a great deal to do with the fact that Patanjali continues to loom as a media-loud nemesis one that's all set to up its investment on two fronts - e-commerce presence and partnerships with e-retailers and aggregators.
As Krishan Kumar Chutani, executive director - consumer care business, Dabur India, said to us in a 2017 interview, "It's true that Patanjali is a movement, but it is not just about Ayurveda. It's also about 'swadeshi'. In fact, 'swadeshi' is the biggest plank... It's not as if Baba Ramdev has helped us spot a trend. Nor can the resurgence of Ayurveda be attributed solely to him."
Even so, we decided to take a look at two things in this regard: First, when putting one's Ayurvedic foot forward, where should the first step fall - on the ingredient, distribution or advertising front? And second, we decided to analyse the quintessential 'Ayurveda ad'; what can agencies do to make sure their piece of communication stands out amid the clutter of ad films boasting products plucked from the lap of nature?
HUL refused to participate in this story; no one from colgate was available to respond at the time of filing the report.
To expand its sales network, Patanjali Ayurved is foraying into the e-commerce space and launching its online platform www.patanjaliayurved.net along with a mobile application today. The Haridwar-based company will also announce partnerships with new e-retailers at a launch event.
Patanjali's entry into retail through exclusive stores, mostly franchised, is a new phenomenon in FMCG. And this has happened due to the immense popularity of Baba Ramdev and the broad product range that covers food products and oral care to cosmetics and floor cleaners. In the Hindi heartland, Baba Ramdev is a larger than life icon who is a yoga guru and political activist against corruption. Patanjali's products are being pitched as an antidote for everything - adulteration, capitalism and the other ills of modern life. MNC brands have tried to launch their own Ayurvedic offerings, but if these are priced at a premium compared to Patanjali, they will not find the market to be quite favourable.
Patanjali has created a new market where none existed. The brand's appeal goes all the way to the bottom of the pyramid and hence, it has ushered into the branded world a whole new set of consumers who were, until now, buying unbranded products. Quite evidently, players like Colgate and HUL are trying pitting themselves against Patanjali.
So, we asked the brand experts where the most crucial place to put one's Ayurvedic foot forward would be. Would it work best at the advertising level, distribution level (visibility at retail level) or packaging level? Would it work best at the product name level (does having a 'vedic' name do half the trick?) or some other level altogether, perhaps?
According to Brand consultant MG Parameswaran (Ambi), "While it is possible to equate Patanjali to Nirma in the value play, the brand is a lot more than just a value offering. The focus on Ayurveda is something that Nirma did not have. Again Ayurveda-based brands are not new in India. Dabur, Zandu and many others have been offering a whole range of products from shampoos, toothpaste, soaps, balms etc. Patanjali is different because it is focused on pricing its products at a very attractive discount (as compared) to even Indian brands."
The challenge for Patanjali is to keep this flock together. Many Patanjali stores are already stocking products by other companies and are slowly becoming multi-brand outlets.
"The MNCs will not be able to replicate all that Patanjali is doing, but they are trying to present their herbal Ayurvedic products as better alternatives. Unless they can offer good value, they will not make a dent on Patanjali's market share," Parameswaran explains.
On the other hand, Jitender Dabas, chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup India, says that as a brand, Patanjali is not just an Ayurvedic brand. It is riding a combination quasi-national, quasi-natural, plus Ayurvedic wave.
"Patanjali's distribution model of exclusive stores run by believers was unique and was a differentiator in the beginning, but now that the brand has grown and is growing bigger, it needs to expand its reach quickly and e-commerce will provide that. Patanjali's model of exclusive stores would come under pressure as its products become available everywhere, including across web-stores, but overall, it would multiply the reach of the brand and help generate even more trials among new consumers," Dabas says.
Dos and Don'ts of 'Ayurveda Advertising'
Lately, Ayurveda advertising has started to look similar and clichés have become a very go-to thing such as turmeric blending with milk or sandal paste and the idea of wholesome natural goodness depicted pictorially. We asked a few experts from the industry what an agency should do on the visual front to beat the competition and how can brands avoid clichés while promoting their Ayurveda portfolios and stand out from the visual clutter of Ayurveda-based products on television.
Praful Akali, founder-director of Medulla Communications, says "While there is a glut of Ayurveda products, most of them are still me-too. What works in Ayurveda is exactly what works in any healthcare advertising - the consumer has to trust you; s/he has to believe that the product will do what you say it does and the product has to solve a unique problem for her/him."
On the visual front, Akali says, "Science, evidence and good old-fashioned consumer understanding or insighting are what's lacking in Ayurvedic ads today. As long as you can bring these through visually, you're home."
According to Ayan Banik, head - brand strategy, Cheil India, more than agencies, it's the brand's prerogative to do authentic communication rather than make 'belief' ads. "Today the Indian consumer is a lot more aware about brands, ingredients, processes of production, date of manufacturing etc. In such a scenario, if brands don't come clean regarding the Ayurvedic ingredients used in specific products, source of procuring those ingredients, benefits of those ingredients and the processes followed in making the products, they will not be able to cut the ice and convince the consumer," Banik says.
He adds, "Ayurvedic products are premium offerings and, therefore, it's not just communication, but branding, packaging as well as the retail environment that needs to capture that earthy premium-ness. Brands should either invest in exclusive outlets for such products or at least keep exclusive shelf space in modern trade to segregate these products from regular cosmetics/ FMCG products."
A look at some of the campaigns launched by Patanjali in the recent past: