Ashee Sharma
Advertising

Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines

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.

Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
"It's so easy, that even Sir can do the washing," says The Wife in Lloyd's latest commercial for its washing machine range, before a male voice-over goes on to highlight the "easy swipe touch panel" and other cool technology (read: UVtron).

"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".

Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
Nipun Singhal, director, Lloyd Electric & Engineering, tells afaqs! the campaign is based on a deep-rooted social insight: Household chores like cleaning and washing are believed to be a woman's department, a notion that doesn't go down well with the working, urban woman - the brand's core TG. "The campaign targets urban women and at the same time inspires men to stop taking women for granted. Men tend to abdicate their responsibility towards helping their wives out in this chore," he says.

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.

Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
Recently, HUL launched a campaign for Surf Excel Matic that delivered an interesting brand promise: It's 'As Good As Mom's Hand Wash'. In the ad, a little boy and an elderly gentleman manage to wash a soiled t-shirt - brace yourself - all by themselves. The message: The product is so good, it simplifies the whole process and negates the need for 'the woman of the house' to intervene; with Surf at hand, the boys can get by without disturbing her at work, quick Skype calls for basic directions notwithstanding.

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.

Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
These ads come close on the heels of P&G's award-winning commercial for Ariel Matic that insists men and women ought to share laundry duties, equally. Washing machine brand Whirlpool partnered Ariel in this campaign.
Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
All these brands make the same point, in different ways. To Lloyd's Singhal, it is the execution that matters. Sunil Kukreti, senior partner, RK Swamy BBDO, Lloyd's creative agency, says, "The coinage 'unisex' will reinforce the message that women want men to help out. Now, Lloyd makes washing so easy that men will have no excuse but to lend a helping hand."

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?

Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
Lloyd Echoes Ariel, Surf; Sells 'Unisex' Washing Machines
While the nobility of the trend is lost on no one, some experts can't help but call some of these creative ideas borderline regressive; after all, must we really dumb down laundry so that men can pitch in? Others see merit in the one-small-step-at-a-time approach. Ultimately, if the consumer's behavior changes, then mission accomplished - doesn't matter how.

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.