Ashwini Gangal

Mardonwala Dandruff?

Head & Shoulders almost does a Fair and Handsome by reprimanding men for using their "Biwi ka shampoo". The campaign has started getting noticed on TV and online. A look at the strategy.

Men, watch what you say and do. If you act too 'girly' (read: crib about your maid, your weight or watch saas-bahu soaps), a giant Head & Shoulders bottle might just come and knock you on the head. Just like it does in the recent campaign released by P&G for its popular shampoo brand.

Mardonwala Dandruff?
Mardonwala Dandruff?
Mardonwala Dandruff?
Mardonwala Dandruff?
Mardonwala Dandruff?
Mardonwala Dandruff?
Mardonwala Dandruff?
And after knocking the men unconscious, the bottle dramatically knocks over a bright pink shampoo bottle. The symbolism is clear. The campaign urges men to reclaim their manhood by ditching their "Biwi ka shampoo" and switching to Head & Shoulders Men, the variant being advertised.

The campaign appears to be targeting married men, who don't bother buying a separate shampoo for themselves and take the convenient option instead - of using their wife's products. It's like an inevitable side effect of sharing a bathroom with someone. And the phenomenon is not limited to the personal care segment; after all, men often read 'girly' magazines only because they're, well, lying around the house. So while women's shampoo brands have every reason to celebrate this add-on consumer effect, looks like Head & Should decided to do something about it. And what better way to make a man stop doing something than by telling him it's not a manly thing to do?

Currently three TVCs are on air. More are in the pipeline. L&K Saatchi & Saatchi has worked on this campaign.

We've seen Shah Rukh Khan - on behalf of Emami Fair and Handsome - reprimand young men for using "Ladkiyon wali cream" in the past. So in a way, the strategy used by Head & Shoulders Men is not entirely new. The difference, however, is that unlike Fair and Handsome - that claims male skin is tougher and hence needs a stronger cream - Head & Shoulders doesn't extend the thought to the product itself; there's no talk of how the variant for men is 'stronger' and hence better suited for, well, 'male dandruff'.

But the supers and voice over are noteworthy in their own right: "Stop (this girly behavior, we gather) before you stop being a man", "Apni biwi ka shampoo chhodo" and "Re-discover the man you once were."

Another brand that took a similar tack in the recent past is Park Avenue with its beer shampoo, targeted at men. "Man hair is different," insisted the actor in the film. Internationally, making women's products (that solve the same problem, like dandruff in the case of H&S) the enemy is a popular approach. Consider for instance Dove's TVC (Brazil, 2013) for its variant Dove Men + Care, which tells men, ever so humorously, how using a girl's shampoo can 'feminise' them. Or the famous Old Spice film about why men shouldn't use "lady scented body washes".

Digital Push

Besides TV, Head & Shoulders has aggressively utilised the digital medium to promote this campaign. Through its website (which takes you to the brand's Facebook page) and a Twitter hashtag (#ZindagiMiliDobara), the brand has invited people to send witty videos aimed at persuading the brand team to - and here's the carrot - send them on a trip to Brazil, venue of this time's Football World Cup.

Some of these crowd-sourced videos have been uploaded on YouTube and on the brand's Facebook page. Several of them feature women who implore the brand team to send their better halves to Brazil so that when they return they will have manned up a tad. Others feature men who talk about why they, along with their male friends, ought to be sent to Brazil.

Does the strategy work?

For Viren Razdan, managing director, Brand-nomics, a brand consultancy, the campaign is like "the revenge of the metrosexual". From an execution perspective, he appreciates the casting and use of music in the TVCs.

The campaign, he says, is like a "gentle reminder of the male variant," one that operates in a fun, light-hearted space. Though it doesn't make any hard claims like "tougher male dandruff", the trip to Brazil thrown in serves as the "male masala" ingredient, reasons Razdan.

However, when a brand operates in a very well-defined space, like Head & Shoulders does, it can be difficult to "re-cast" it from 'a shampoo for women' to 'a shampoo for men' through a single campaign, Razdan admits. "H&S might need a stronger push than this gentle nudge to make it a significant cross-over," he says.

Sure, the men's grooming category has seen phenomenal growth in the recent past. But are we, as a market, ready to look at shampoos in a 'gendered' manner? We're comfortable looking at fragrance as 'his' and 'hers'. Where does anti-dandruff shampoo stand?

Razdan opines, "While gender differences are blurring, a significant effort would be required to re-cast your existing equity and make it relevant to the male following. Brands like H&S, however, have the advantage of being a specialist first. Until now, the product was packaged in feminine glamour but that is changing." Internationally, H&S is endorsed by ace footballer Lionel Messi, he reminds us.

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