Sunit Roy

"Want to delight 'Millennial Moms'": Pankaj Duhan, RB, on Dettol soaps

We spoke to the CMO of RB, South Asia Health, about Dettol's latest 'Co-Created with Moms' range of products in the soap segment.

Dettol, germ protection brand from the house of Reckitt Benckiser (RB), recently announced the launch of a range of bathing soaps and hand washes, 'co-created' in consultation with consumers - specifically, mothers. The brand team claims these products are made using ingredients pre-approved by moms and that they are free from parabens, dyes and talc. Product variants include tulsi and jasmine. The range will be available across grocery and departmental stores, pharmacies and e-commerce websites.

"Want to delight 'Millennial Moms'": Pankaj Duhan, RB, on Dettol soaps

Pankaj Duhan and Tisca Chopra announce the launch of 'Dettol Co-Created with Moms'
Click on the image to enlarge

"Want to delight 'Millennial Moms'": Pankaj Duhan, RB, on Dettol soaps

'Dettol Co-Created with Moms' - a range of bathing soaps and hand washes
Click on the image to enlarge

At the launch event earlier this week, we spoke to Pankaj Duhan, CMO, RB South Asia Health, about the product innovation. Duhan has around 17 years of FMCG marketing experience, the bulk of which was spent at Procter & Gamble, where he worked on brands like Pantene, Olay, SK-II, Pampers, Gillette, and Head & Shoulders. He's worked across 22 different countries, including developing markets like China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, and Thailand as well as developed markets like the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. Duhan moved to RB in 2017 and is based in Gurugram.

Edited Excerpts

Tell us more about this product line - how did you go about co-creating a range with consumers?

The research work for this started almost two years ago; we reached out to 800 moms. We gave them a list of 100 odd ingredients that are used in handwashes and soap bars and told them exactly what each one does. Then we asked them: 'Now that you know what each of these ingredients does, which ones do you want to keep and which do you want to take out?'


They had very specific demands.

They came up with specific recommendations and we decided to formulate accordingly. Essentially, three needs came through: they said no to unnecessary ingredients, they wanted lesser use of chemicals and they were unwilling to compromise on the germ protection aspect.

This is our attempt to create transparency about what goes into the product.

What's the main TG for this new range? Is the brand looking to plug a specific gap?

Dettol is a well-penetrated product and one always wants maximum cut in the Indian market. Our share (in the soap segment) is a little above 10 per cent, so there's always the possibility for growth. As a challenger brand, one always wants to delight the consumer and tell them more about product science to make them desire the brand more.

From a geographic perspective, we didn't put any filters, but we're clear about wanting to delight 'millennial moms', who are the strictest critics, which is why we decided to co-create a proposition with them.

What about present-day market conditions made it the right time to experiment with this offering? Or was it born out of a need to beat the clutter and competition in the soap segment? Also, give us a sense of the size of the segment...

The total size of the soap category is Rs 16,000 crore (approx) and it has been growing at 7-8 per cent every year.

We don't worry much about competition. The more you worry about it, the more you become like the competition. Also, I think focusing on rivals is myopic.

Dettol enjoys a unique advantage - people easily associate it with germ protection. Many brands don't enjoy that kind of advantage. Of course, there are quite a few competitors in the market and more will come. But we will continue to try and grow our share. Our research suggests that the best category to try and do that through is the personal care space. That's where demand is exceptionally high.

The moment you get into benchmarking exercises, you tend to develop 'me too' products because benchmarking, by definition, is a follower's strategy. We are focusing on innovations instead. As marketers, our job is to evolve with the consumer. Ten years back, maybe such an idea wouldn't have worked, but today, it will.

Sure, fast distribution is your main focus. But talk to us about how you will advertise this range. Tell us about the media effort...

We have used an unconventional route - a 'mystery-reveal campaign'. We invited bloggers, opinion leaders and consumers to vote for the products and ingredients they want. We also got around 200 opinion leaders to sample and test un-branded products in the process of developing this range.

We used the digital medium to reach out. Three different commercials were released for the non-branded product. Now, one commercial is on air for the final product. There will be a multi-phase ad campaign in the days to come.

The media spend is definitely higher than that of other products we've previously launched.

Which media channels will lead the campaign?

We have thrown all rules out of the window and hence, it hardly looks like a soap category launch. We have led with digital, primarily social media platforms. Traditionally, that has not been the case for the soap category.

What are the best and worst performing regions for Dettol in India - soap, handwash and antiseptic liquid?

Our soap business is very strong in the North and West regions. The antiseptic liquid is exceptionally strong in Southern India. This goes back to consumers' habits - in the North and West, people use soap to protect themselves against germs while in the South, people usually use it as a beauty product... but at the same time, they ensure their houses are spotlessly clean; hence the usage of antiseptic liquid is higher.

Our handwash has got mass appeal across India, but the handwash category is not as well penetrated as soap. Same goes for the hand sanitiser category too. Therefore, these segments tend to be more 'new format driven', and e-commerce plays a bigger role here.

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