Ashwini Gangal

"Re-launching such brands is about going back to the roots": Hindustan Unilever on Liril

HUL has brought back The Liril Girl, her green bikini, the waterfall and the promise of freshness. A look at the new, old ad.

Hindustan Unilever has re-launched its soap brand Liril. As the new pack sits pretty on shelves, HUL tries to woo consumers with a new ad film that re-introduces the brand's prized audio-visual assets: The Liril Girl, the 'La la la...' jingle and the water fall.

Difference is, this time around, The Liril Girl is Brazilian. The ad has been shot at the Ban Gioc waterfall in Vietnam. The waterfall is 300 meters wide - widest in the country.

"Re-launching such brands is about going back to the roots": Hindustan Unilever on Liril
"Re-launching such brands is about going back to the roots": Hindustan Unilever on Liril
"We auditioned a host of models. Annabel stood out for having a vibrant face. Her expression captures the sheer joy of seizing life by the moment," says the spokesperson at Lowe Lintas, the brand's creative agency.

The media campaign - one that began with a teaser phase that was led by the jingle - includes TV and print (lead mediums) as well as radio and digital communication.

"Re-launching such brands is about going back to the roots": Hindustan Unilever on Liril
Why did the brand team decide to go back to an old creative idea instead of launching a new one? The spokesperson at Hindustan Unilever explains, "Even after all these years, when we say 'Liril', people from all walks of life fondly recall the waterfall, the girl, her spontaneity and energy. They hum the jingle then and there. These are the roots of Liril. They don't change."

About the current film, HUL says, "We're paying homage to the Liril we all know, bringing alive the very same elements that have been part of our popular culture through time. The campaign is a modern rendition of the original ad and is designed to get Liril into the hearts and homes of the consumer."

About the challenges of reviving an old audio-visual message, HUL adds, "The secret to creating new advertising on long existing brands is to stay true to the core elements of what the brand is made of. What people remember even after many years is the original promise - the character, visual appeal, colour and sound. Preferences and formats might change, but the core attributes of any brand stay in the minds of consumers. Re-launching such brands is essentially about going back to the roots."

Around 2009, the company did away with the waterfall and moved indoors, into the 'family space', with a brand called Liril 2000. Says HUL about the shift, "Liril 2000 was created to add to, and build on, the 'healthy skin' platform," adding about the current campaign, "... there is also a need to tap into the overarching equity that stood around spontaneity and freshness."

Refreshing Re-launch?

While there's no denying the delight that seeing and hearing something this familiar brings, from a brand perspective is there an element of risk in suddenly going back to an old ad? What might that risk be?

"Re-launching such brands is about going back to the roots": Hindustan Unilever on Liril
"Re-launching such brands is about going back to the roots": Hindustan Unilever on Liril
Santosh Padhi, chief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot India, answers, "It was really path-breaking to show a girl bathing under a waterfall, wearing short clothes, four decades back, but things have evolved over the years. What was aspirational, cool and trendy then is not relevant anymore."

Does it work, though? "Yes," Paddy, as he is fondly known, responds, "It has all the category clichés," albeit, "minus the impact and edginess."

About the creative execution, Paddy says, "I like the energy level, spontaneity and grace of the girl," but goes on to critique, "Instead of a 'foreign chick', I feel a sensuous Indian actress would have appealed to male and female audiences."

All in all, he feels, "Be it the first Liril TVC, Cadbury's famous cricket ad, or the first Hamara Bajaj ad, "it is always difficult to capture those moments in sequels."

Anand Halve, co-founder, Chlorophyll, a brand marketing consultancy, says, "The original Karen Lunel film was released in 1977. A 20-year old from then, would be retiring in 2015. Any celebration of 'Fresh is back' (HUL's new catchphrase for Liril) will have to be done with a no-sugar cake and low-cholesterol snacks. Among younger audiences, Liril is unfamiliar. Without residual imagery, 'Fresh is back' is about as compelling as 'Ovaltine is back'. Revival of an old 'original' needs a living legacy. In the case of Liril, I'm afraid the nostalgia isn't what it used to be."

Halve goes on, "The Liril girls gamboled and frolicked like exotic nymphs, launching a thousand fantasies. But 'Ram Teri Ganga Maili' was released in 1985. Little was left to the imagination, as Mandakini did... well, whatever she did... and waterfalls have never been the same again. And since then, with Sunny Leone and various 'jisms' on display, what chance does a simple, average-looking kid in water have?"

He points out, "Old timers will remind you that Liril wasn't about sexuality, but about women fantasising about the feeling of liberation during a bath," a premise that falls short today, "in a world where they have moved on."

He explains, "40 is the new 20, and women are feeling younger, at all ages. They don't need to imagine themselves under a waterfall, when they did exactly that last month and posted a selfie of the occasion on Facebook," adding that within the category itself, things have changed: "Dove has moisturiser, bathing gels are calls to indulgence, and freshness is hardly a differentiator, just as fairness is a basic element in all skincare products."

Besides, the youngsters in Cinthol's 'Alive is awesome' film, he reminds us, have done a lot more silly, fun things in water.

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