Ashwini Gangal

Himalaya debunks pimple myths

The brand insists men are no less hassled by pesky pimples than women are.

'Men hate pimples too' - Interesting statement for a men's grooming brand to make, isn't it?

Himalaya Men, men's care brand from Himalaya Herbals, has - after running a 20-second-long teaser film for a week - released a 30-second-long TVC that features cricketers Virat Kohli, Shane Watson, Stuart Binny and Sarfaraz Khan. They all play for Royal Challengers Bangalore (IPL team).

Himalaya debunks pimple myths
The product being advertised is Himalaya Men Pimple Clear Neem Facewash.
Himalaya debunks pimple myths
"This phase of our campaign is about debunking the myth that men are too proud to worry about things such as pimples. Fact is, men are as concerned about pimples as women are, but sometimes hesitate to admit it..." says Prateek Srivastava, creative head, Chapter Five, the marketing communications company that has created this ad.
Himalaya debunks pimple myths
Himalaya debunks pimple myths
The ad has been directed by Devanshu Singh and produced by Melting Clock. Created in Hindi and Kannada, the campaign is being aired in Hindi speaking markets and in Karnataka.

In this category, two converse things are happening simultaneously. While the advent of the metrosexual male, coupled with the growth of the men's grooming segment, has, inadvertently leveled out the gender divide (by saying 'What's wrong if men care about appearance as much as women do?'), it has also widened the gender gap by 'genderising' certain behaviour patterns, sometimes across related segments too.

For instance, Veet, body hair removal cream for women, tried to get women to stop shaving their limbs, by saying, "Razors are for boys" and Park Avenue's beer shampoo made a case for 'man hair' by saying to men, "You need this. It's got beer."

Machismo Or Gender Neutrality?

We asked a couple of branding experts to analyse the insight Himalaya has used and decode what it connotes. What do the current communication patterns in the men's grooming segment in India tell us about this relatively young category? What's a better communication tack - using historically male symbols like beer to sell 'beauty' products to men or going the gender neutral way, by questioning why vanity and masculinity are assumed to be mutually exclusive concepts? Their answers say a lot about the life stage that the men's grooming segment is in, presently.

Saji Abraham, executive director, Lowe Lintas, says, "Men's grooming has come out of the closet. Things have changed with the advent of specific products for men. If you recall, it started with the insight - Why use a 'female product' if you are a man?"

"Going ahead, I see brands (in this segment) creating strong RTBs (reasons to believe) around why their product is suited for men and creating a strong emotional connect with men. The lowest hanging fruit for this would be things that are stereotypically male, like gadgets, sports and automobiles," he predicts, adding, "My hunch is that different price segments will play the game differently. At the highest end there might be a duplication of fashion trends and the rational underpinnings will increase as income levels (of the TG) go down."

Himalaya debunks pimple myths
Himalaya debunks pimple myths
Specifically about the new Himalaya ad, Lowe's Abraham says, "The brand misses an opportunity in communicating to men. It shows a player shy about pimples but does not explore where this shyness is coming from. This could have been nuanced with the false bravado that men show when confronted with a problem, for instance. Himalaya should now go deeper and either talk about why they are best suited to tackle men's pimples ('mimples', perhaps?) or create an emotional bond with men who face this problem."

According to Anand Halve, brand consultant and founder, Chlorophyll, a brand marketing consultancy, this commercial does nothing to foster category growth. It would have, if it explained why this product is perfect for a man's pimples over a woman's, he opines. "Why is this any different from Himalaya with neem for women? Nothing in the commercial tells me why this young boy shouldn't use his sister's face wash," he says.

About the execution, Halve says, "The people plugging it are so artificial. Virat Kohli is shown with a beard under which he could have so many pimples..." he thinks aloud, adding, "...I am talking about creating a category. This ad assumes the category already exists. Saying 'because boys also have pimples' means nothing."

If it were up to him, what kind of ad would he make to sell an anti-pimple product to young men? Halve hazards a make-shift story-board: A slightly older player, like Yuvraj Singh, perhaps, meets a young boy fishing around in the locker room. Yuvraj says, "At your age, I had the same problem and unfortunately 'Uss zamaane mein kuch nahi tha...'

He'd also change the green pack to a blue-cum-red one.

(Additional inputs by Ashee Sharma and Suraj Ramnath)

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