The laundry segment - including detergents and washing machines - appears to be in a state of flux. P&G's Ariel insists men and women should 'Share The Load' and split laundry duties. HUL'S Surf Excel promises it's 'As Good As Mom's Hand Wash', thus negating the need for her to do the laundry. Now, Lloyd promotes 'Unisex Washing Machines'.
How do you get a man to do the laundry?
Option 1: Dumb it down. Make it less intimidating.
Option 2: Lure him with fancy technology. Turn the washing machine into a boy toy.
"Swipe and it starts...swipe and it stops," enthuses The Husband at the end of the commercial, by which time he is convinced that laundry is not his wife's "department".
The objective of this campaign, though, is to announce Lloyd's entry into the washing machine category. Besides TV, the media mix includes print, cinema and digital communication.
Another way of decoding the message is: If little kids can do it, so can men. Hindustan Unilever, however, has a different explanation. "Surf Excel has always believed that if kids get dirty in the act of doing good, then dirt is good. It builds on the same in the new communication where the kid's clothes get stained in trying to help a friend fix the chain on his cycle," says the company spokesperson.
Adds the HUL spokesperson, "...Our consumer research indicates that (though) washing machines have brought great convenience in consumers' lives... they still feel that washing by hand, with all the effort that goes into it, gives best results. Therefore, the whole marketing mix is designed to deliver the gold standard of cleaning..." that is, mom's hand wash.
According to Lloyd's pre-campaign research, Indian women are of the view that when it comes to household chores, gender inequality is alive and kicking. The survey included 1,250 respondents, both men and women, across Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
Ankur Suman, senior brand design director, RK Swamy BBDO, insists the idea was not to be preachy. "...By calling our machines 'unisex', we have declared our intent and message, loud and clear, without being too emotional about it. Women will love the way the brand has delivered its message."
Will Men Wash?
Satbir Singh, chief creative officer, FCB Ulka, is of the view that while most advertising reflects, and draws inspiration from social behaviour, only the best messaging actually drives change. "The role of advertising is to place a brand on top of consumers' minds. Today, brave brands that speak of and contribute towards change in social behaviour will get there quicker," he says.
Divyapratap Mehta, founder, Intertwined, a brand consultancy, calls the trend the "new mass reality of India". He can't help but wonder, though, whether all this is too little, too late. "Almost 17 years back," he says, "Ariel ran a campaign to show that even a man can wash clothes using the product. At the time, it was progressive as India, back then, was far more set in traditional gender roles..."
Sameer Aasht, founder-director, Alma Mater Biz Solutions, a brand consultancy that targets start-ups, feels "gender-bender ads like these are indicators of a cultural change which we are hoping for," because "as a society we have never been averse to the male 'dhobi' washing and ironing clothes or the male 'halwai' or 'maharaj' cooking sumptuous delicacies. The difference is - now such roles are being gladly embraced by men in nuclear families as well..."
According to Aasht, who used to head brand strategy at Taproot India, if the point of these ads is to get more men to do the laundry, then negative reinforcement - as shown in Lloyd's ad, when she humiliates him for his regressive thinking - may not be the best route. What does he suggest, instead? - Making laundry look like a fun chore might work, he opines.
According to Emmanuel Upputuru, creative chairman, ITSA, a creative agency, the general trend these days is for brands to "push their proposition in the garb of a purpose." Although he doesn't find anything wrong with it, he cautions against looking like a desperate 'me too' in the bargain.