N. Shatrujeet

Vaseline: Cracks come into the open

By implying that strangers can pass judgements about you, the ad for Vaseline Crack Relief dramatizes the social embarrassment caused by cracked heels

Total strangers, peeking into your life, catching a glimpse of some distasteful little fact and drawing their own conclusions about you from what they've seen. Dreadful thought. And even more dismaying is the knowledge that you, albeit unwittingly, created that window of opportunity for people to peep through.

It is this aspect of dismay that the advertising for Vaseline Crack Relief - Hindustan Lever's (HLL) latest offering in the foot care segment - chooses to highlight. The commercial, created by McCann-Erickson India, goes like this. A woman at a shoe store is trying on new sandals, a salesman dancing attendance. The lady points to a pair of sandals, indicating her desire to try them on. The salesman approaches her feet to measure her foot size, stares closely at her cracked heels… and snorts silently. He departs to fetch the desired shoe.

On returning, he starts hard-selling a pair of sandals he is carrying, even explaining that these are available at discounted prices. One look at the sandals in the salesman's hand, and the woman realizes that they are not the pair she had asked for. She protests, insisting that she would like to try out the other pair. The salesman shakes his head resignedly and informs her that she would not be able to afford that pair. ‘Pairon ke daraaron se aapki zindagi mein koi kyon jhaanke?' asks the voiceover.

Crack relief creams in India have almost always been peddled on the ‘social embarrassment' peg. Paras Pharmaceuticals' crack relief brand, Krack, has achieved market supremacy by aggressively playing up the ‘poor image' that people suffering from cracked heels have. (Remember the ‘chehre se raajrani, pairon se naukrani' ad for Krack?)

However, what distinguishes the Vaseline ad is the source of embarrassment for the protagonist. While in the case of Krack the protagonist suffers humiliation through people known to her - friends and relatives - in the Vaseline ad, a stranger is the reason for discomfiture. And that is the key advertising differentiator for Vaseline.

"Krack chose to dramatize the presence of cracked heels through the eyes of known people around the protagonist," explains Neeraja Shiknis, brand services director, McCann-Erickson. "Vaseline Crack Relief is based on the insight that unknown people are capable of passing a judgement about you and your social standing, based on your cracked heels. After all, dirty cracked heels reflect poor personal hygiene and low social status. Why let anyone have this opportunity to have a peek in your world and your life?" Incidentally, in the ad, the use of the socio-economic context of cracked heels is very deliberate. Shiknis reveals that "pre-launch consumer research qualitatively validated" the fact that consumers associate cracked heels with the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

The attempt is also to differentiate Vaseline from Krack, a fact that Shiknis corroborates. "Our challenge was clearly to set Vaseline apart from Krack in terms of its communication." Reasons for this are not hard to find. In the 330-tonnes-per-annum foot care market (year 2000 figures), Krack dominates with a share of 296 tonnes (which translates into almost 90 per cent market share, by volume). And there is virtually no significant No. 2 brand in the market. In fact, HLL had launched Heel-Guard back in 1996, but the brand was withdrawn in 1999, as it "did not have a differentiated offering against the Krack offensive".

In that sense, Vaseline Crack Relief marks HLL's re-entry into the foot care segment, this time with the added muscle of the Vaseline franchise. "The equity that Vaseline commands is huge," says Shiknis. "Honesty and efficiency are the core values, and Vaseline is seen as a brand that delivers on a promise."

Interestingly, the Vaseline brand has been undergoing a transition - from a dryness-relief brand to a problem-solution brand. "Our vision for Vaseline is to extend it beyond its current dryness-relief equity to every kind of problem faced by the body," explains Shiknis, adding that, "The challenge was also to highlight the distinctive edge of Vaseline Crack Relief (with its claimed ‘2-Step Action') in the communication."

"The client brief was very simple," says Prasoon Joshi, national creative director, McCann-Erickson. "HLL wanted to communicate the fact that here was a superior product - in a very hard-hitting manner. We were faced with the task of figuring out how to say something strong in a product category that was all about appearance and cosmetic appeal. That's when we thought about putting it in a socio-economic context. The fact of the matter is that many women in India work bare feet while doing all their housework, and this results in cracked heels. Also, no one wants to openly admit that they can't afford a naukrani. We put these two together and came up with an idea that said that the story of your life is actually right in the open, before everyone's eyes, strangers included. And when strangers peep into your life and pass judgement, it can be a rude shock. The moment I gave them the idea, Levers jumped for it." He adds that credit for the idea should go to Tejol Kolwalkar (creative consultant, McCann) and Vivek Rampal (at HLL) as well. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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