The Lux soap bar was redesigned to include a lump as part of a campaign aimed at highlighting the issue of breast cancer awareness and self-detection.
"Lux was glamour personified. Lux was about the private moments of the star. The star on a pedestal. Distant but alluring. The Lux soap advertisement showcased the glamour of the female star in Indian cinema and gave the consumer a peek into her life," writes strategy consultant Prabhakar Mundkur (who previous worked on the brand from Hindustan Unilever as an adman), in an article on a trade media website. But the brand's latest ad campaign is worlds apart from its "glam" image built over decades of advertising. Being heavily celeb-driven, Lux has had stars from the vintage Rati Agnihotri to a rather contemporary Alia Bhatt, in its ads.
The latest communication, a video from the campaign 'Lux - The soap with a lump' has neither the golden/pink overtones nor the rose petals and saffron. It is also devoid of the milk and sandalwood. The film is rather gloomy and features no celebs, but deals with the very serious issue of breast cancer awareness. As part of the campaign, HUL reshaped the Lux soap bar and added a lump. The campaign was ideated and crafted by Wunderman Thompson India.
The initiative was presented at the breast cancer screening camp conducted by the Indian Cancer Society (ICS) at Vasai, Maharashtra. Women of different age groups were given the soap along with a leaflet educating them on the importance of breast cancer awareness. HUL's future plans include a collaboration with the ICS in spreading breast cancer awareness and education among women across India. The soap with the lump has only been designed for the campaign and won't be available to consumers.
However, what's unusual is HUL's choice of brand for the campaign. More so since it already has soap brands like Dove (known for its 'real beauty' campaigns), Lifebuoy (leaning towards healthcare), Pears (known for its mother-child ads), any of which could have been a more obvious match. Also, Lux's shift in terms of advertising is nothing less than radical.
Turning to experts:
Brand and consumer expert, Sita Lakshmi Narayan Swamy, says, "Any brand doing its bit for women's issues like breast cancer is a welcome move. Since soap usage is tactile, bathing is a great time to check for a lump. That being said, from a brand fit perspective, this move from Lux is surprising. Lux has always been about glamorous beauty featuring iconic film stars. It has never been positioned around holistic beauty or health. A brand like Lifebuoy (with roots in hygiene) or Dove may have been a better fit for innovation of this nature.
"I have read that the soaps are not going to be retailed across the country, but only in the awareness camps. If the brand really was rooting for the cause, then perhaps the soaps would have been put out in the mass market, across the length and breadth of the country. I wonder if they are worried about doing this since the entire family generally uses the brand and that could, maybe, affect market share. So, this rather selective distribution ends up being a rather tentative, sitting-on-the-fence kind of effort if the brand wished to start a conversation. As a marketer, I am surprised by the lack of brand fit. As a woman, I think it may be a loss of a great opportunity for HUL to be able to put all its marketing, distribution and communication muscle behind a brilliant innovation such as this, to actually make a difference to countless women," Swamy signs off.
Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO and founder, Brand-Comm, says, "Brands today have been continuously talking about the common good. Brands like Red Label are talking about very sensitive issues like religious harmony. It is more of a global trend where companies are increasingly concentrating on not just financial good but also good for the community. This is one more step in the overall direction of social responsibility. There is a huge gap in cancer awareness in India and such a campaign and innovation is a significant step towards telling the world - 'I am actually serious about my consumer's health''."
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Sridhar adds, "Lux has been a leading brand both globally and in India and has been driven by celebrity endorsements. Today, brands are continually trying to stand apart; this could be an attempt to be different but do it with a conscience and social responsibility, which is becoming increasingly important today."