Deepashree Banerjee and Ashwini Gangal

Men, use androgynous fragrance or risk turning into women...

... Is the core message of Wild Stone talc. We analyse the ad and the strategy.

Remember the ad in which Shah Rukh Khan, on behalf of Emami, reprimanded a dark-skinned Indian man for using his sister's fairness cream? Manly skin is "rough and tough" and needs a special kind of fairness cream, went Khan's argument. This was about a decade back, around the time the men's grooming segment was beginning to come into its own. Today, it has exploded. And there have since been many attempts at genderising otherwise neutral products like soaps and shampoos.

For instance, a few years back, Head & Shoulders implored men to man up and stop using their "Biwi ka shampoo" (that bottle was pink, by the way). And who can forget Park Avenue's attempt at bottling masculinity, with its beer shampoo?

Now, if we begin discussing the universal notion of genderising fragrance, then we'll be up against a massive global perfume market. That will take away attention - both ours and yours - from a recently released advert for Wild Stone men's talcum powder. Which is what this article is primarily about.

Men, use androgynous fragrance or risk turning into women...

Male Talc Brand, Wild Stone through its TVC campaign #GoodChoiceSister advocates the adoption of male talcum powder by showcasing the relevance of androgynous fragrances

Wild Stone talc, a personal care product marketed by McNROE, has released an ad that urges men to stop using women's talc, lest they turn into women themselves. Laced with humour, the ad, titled #GoodChoiceSister, is about a husband who uses his wife's talc and turns into a woman, much to his wife's disappointment. The wife gets her macho man back when he starts using Wild Stone instead.

Men, use androgynous fragrance or risk turning into women...

Wild Stone poster
Click on the image to enlarge

Hilarity aside, the message nevertheless brings an interesting argument to mind: While most brands across categories are trying to bust stereotypes, this one perpetuates the idea of genderising fragrance. While creating male and female variants of a single type of grooming product helps the cause of marketing and consumerism, is it in conflict with brands' need to be 'woke'?

In a press release, the brand team says: This campaign advocates the adoption of male talcum powder by showcasing the relevance of androgynous fragrances in a very relatable way.

Men, use androgynous fragrance or risk turning into women...

Narendra Kumar Daga

"Gender-neutral grooming products were a safe option till consumers became more aware and informed about their specific grooming preferences. Today our Indian consumers have evolved and are on the lookout for products that suit their personalities. Wild Stone means to facilitate this evolution and create products that specifically address these choices," says Narendra Kumar Daga, founder and MD, McNROE. McNROE, makers of deo-brand Wild Stone, entered the men's grooming segment earlier this year.

He goes on to say, "Presently, India boasts a Rs 2,000+ crore market size for talcum powder which is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 10 per cent in terms of value in the short to medium term. So, now our focus is to strengthen our brand position and increase our consumer base further."

The TVC provides a ready solution to the concerns of women battling the qualms of gender-neutral personal care products in a regular household. Although an established male-grooming player, Wild Stone wittily acknowledges the concerns of women or the chief homemakers in the narrative.

Daga adds, "Women are intelligent shoppers and evaluate a product on several parameters including its fragrance and appeal. Wild Stone has deftly shown product relevance without appearing overtly masculine."

The marketer also gives us an idea about what the brand's overall media pie looks like, "The marketing spends amount to approximately INR 20 Crores annually. While there is no specific marketing mix, the allotment largely depends on the annual strategy," he says adding, "TV promotions make for 80 per cent of the total pie, while online spends have roughly assumed a 20 per cent share in the recent past."

Expert speak:

Men, use androgynous fragrance or risk turning into women...

Saritha Shivshankar

Saritha Shivshankar, senior creative director, IdeateLabs thinks that as a society, the kind of cultural fabric we have is evolving multi-fold. Internationally, there seems to be a lot of role reversal/role sharing; whether it's with brands like Always or CareFirst's Live Fearless campaign. She feels brands in India too have made progress - Ariel's #ShareTheLoad' or Whisper's 'Touch the Pickle' campaign.

"What's happening with this piece of work (Wild Stone's) is that it actually takes the whole argument back by another decade. It belittles one of the sexes to make the other look good. For a brand to have to do that to stand out is just being creative for the sake of it. So, when the brand sets out to do something different, they need to be careful about how people are evolving. It's not enough for the brand to be different; it has to be socially relevant as well. I am surprised a brand could go out and do this," she elaborates about the Wild Stone ad.

So, what are the dos and don'ts really?

"First and foremost, the brand must identify the need for it. Consumers are very perceptive today about the communication they receive and any fabrication can lead to a massive backlash. Even if one is challenging the norm, the means they use, the execution and the messaging, are all essential. If not done right, this can backfire for the brand. Ultimately, the campaign and the messaging has to resonate with the brand's DNA. If it stays true to the brand and its core proposition, it will be well received." she explains.

Shivshankar shares that there are brands that prefer what she calls a "creative stunt". Despite knowing the potentially negative outcome and the backlash they may face because of their in-your-face approach, they are after the chatter it will generate. "Such ads are not even a conference room joke these days! This ad, for example, isn't unconsciously created, like with Gillette's where the intent was different from the audience's perception. This is blatant and it looks like the brand was looking to gather some eyeballs and become part of conversations without having to do much. Maybe it helped them achieve that," she says. When it comes to whether it adds value to the brand, Shivshankar quips, "That is another matter altogether."

Men, use androgynous fragrance or risk turning into women...

Sunila Karir

Sunila Karir, founder and creative partner, Boing! has an interesting take to share saying that the product shown is clearly a feminine powder, so she doesn't think there is any kind of bashing.

"Men and women are chemically and naturally different, with different skin and hair. The same goes for the scents that they emanate. It's a primal instinct for all species in the animal kingdom to be attracted to one another by distinctive male and female scents. The brand has made use of this insight to create a gender-specific product."

She adds, "Gender neutrality and gender equality has absolutely nothing to do with making different products for different genders. It's just a marketing strategy. As long as the commercial is not offensive to any gender, in my mind, it works."


Creative agency: Brand David

Production House: Jamic Films

Director: Shirish Daiya

Media Agency: Asian Shopping Club

Social & Digital Media Marketing Agency: In-House

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