Ananya Pathak

A year into the pandemic, pharma brands Dabur, Glaxo, Cipla Health up marketing ante for nasal hygiene products

Can nasal sprays and nostril focussed products go beyond problem-solution use? Will Indians use nose washes like mouthwashes?

Most Indians have used, or at least know of, Vicks’ white ‘stick inhaler’. And that’s as far as nasal awareness stretched, at least in the context of product marketing.

But today, a year into a global public health crisis, linked to the respiratory tract, we’re looking at ads for nasal sprays, nasal washes and nasal drops quite frequently. And some of us even know what ‘jal neti kriya’ means.

Taking this category to the masses with their distribution and advertising muscle are brands like Cipla Health, Dabur and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). With their nasal sprays, washes, decongestants, inhalers and drops, they’re trying to find a room on the consumer’s monthly shopping list.

Interestingly, while for now, most products in this segment are positioned as ‘problem-solution’ brands with ‘medicinal’ value, in the long-term, perhaps, growth will come from the habitual, prophylactic use – that is, the daily use of nasal wash products, even in the absence of any ailment or discomfort.

In its ads, Cipla Health, with its nasal decongestant brand Naselin, highlights the way a blocked nose interrupts a good night’s sleep. Launched in April 2020, the product is available in spray, drop and balm (rub) formats.

Shivam Puri, CEO, Cipla Health, tells afaqs! that the consumerisation journey of Naselin took some exploration and conversations with the consumers, who suffered from problems like a blocked nose and cold – users as well as non-users of the category.

Shivam Puri
Shivam Puri

Puri joined Cipla Helath in June 2019 before which he worked for two years at Jubilant FoodWorks as CBO (Dunkin Donuts and new business units) and for over twelve years at Hindustan Unilever as general manager (business head , water-pureit business) and in other business management roles.

Speaking about the insight the brand’s communication is based on, he says, “Blocked nose is the most common symptom of cold and is usually triggered by an allergy, environmental change, pollution and so on. With a blocked nose, the entire attention is on the nose and all efforts are put into unblocking it. It leads to discomfort and disrupts daily activities. But, unlike cold, a blocked nose causes difficulty in breathing, which gets more bothersome when one tries to sleep.”

“The discomfort has many manifestations, like heaviness in head and stuffiness, especially when the sinuses get affected…,” he says, adding that Naselin provides a wider area of relief so that one gets a good night’s sleep.

A year into the pandemic, pharma brands Dabur, Glaxo, Cipla Health up marketing ante for nasal hygiene products

The brand’s journey started with a nasal spray and then it expanded to include formats like decongestant rubs. Puri is of the opinion that given the pandemic situation, the brands need to highlight the relevance of this category in order to boost adoption of these products.

Riding on the heightened interest around health and immunity, Dabur too launched Ayurvedic Nasal Drops last April.

Dabur Ayurvedic Nasal Drops
Dabur Ayurvedic Nasal Drops

Durga Prasad, GM – marketing, ethical portfolio, Dabur India, tells us that around the time when immunity was the top priority for the consumers (starting March last year), the idea for the product came from ‘Nasya karma’ – a nasal infection protection measure mentioned in Ayurveda.

Durga Prasad
Durga Prasad

Prasad has over 25 years of marketing experience in the health care industry and has been with Dabur since August 1993.

The process involves putting oil through the nose, twice daily, to prevent respiratory infections. Dabur Nasal Drops (spray format) is made of Badam (almond), Sadbindu (Ayurvedic herbal oil) and Anu (acts as an observant) oil. The product can be used by anyone above the age of 12.

Prasad claims that Dabur is the only brand in the segment that promises enhanced immunity other than relief from nasal discomforts.

Interestingly, while for now, most products in this segment are positioned as ‘problem-solution’ brands with ‘medicinal’ value, in the long-term, perhaps, growth will come from the habitual, prophylactic use – that is, the daily use of nose wash products, even in the absence of any ailment or discomfort.

To promote the product, Dabur launched a campaign a few months ago to express gratitude to police personnel and security guards on night duty during winters across the Delhi NCR region.

With its latest communication for Otrivin Breathe Clean Daily Nasal Wash, GSK too is trying to inculcate the habit of daily nose washing.

Introduced in India in 2009, the product was launched under the cough/cold and allergies segment.

Vijay Sharma, area marketing lead, OTC and expert marketing ISC, GSK Consumer Healthcare, says, “When the product was launched, the category lacked competition, and the consumers were searching for a trusted brand that would enable them to breathe better when they had a cold or nasal congestion.”

Vijay Sharma
Vijay Sharma

Sharma has over 30 years of experience in the field of marketing and sales. He joined GSK in 2011. In the past, he has worked with Godrej Consumer Products, Hindustan Unilever and Siel Limited.

He tells afaqs! that Otrivin Breathe Clean Daily Nasal Wash is positioned towards a strong consumer need of wanting to take care of nasal hygiene.

While the core TG comprises children, adults with pre-existing respiratory conditions, and the elderly, Sharma points out that the product is designed for anyone who is conscious about his nasal hygiene and is looking at products that help clean the nasal passage.

The brand markets a saline-based wash with the “moisturising benefit of natural glycerin”, a formula that pushes it closer to the “daily use” zone.

Otrivin Breathe Clean Daily Nasal Wash
Otrivin Breathe Clean Daily Nasal Wash

“While the pandemic has heightened the need to maintain one’s health and hygiene, people often tend to ignore the cleansing of the nasal passage and focus primarily on their hands.”

“… cleansing the nasal cavity by washing away the excess mucus or the allergen particles such as dust or pollen is an immediate need,” Sharma signs off.

Can nose washes actually become like mouthwashes in the times to come? How do brands create a FOMO around it?

Here’s what brand consultant L Suresh thinks about it:

The attempt to make nasal wash part of one's routine is an interesting experiment. All of us have to only look in the mirror to understand why forming a habit is such a difficult thing.

The story behind how a cereal brand in the US made consumers believe that 'breakfast was the most important meal of the day' is legendary. Back home, buying gold on an auspicious day to increase prosperity achieved its target of striking gold, for jewellers across the country.

Habits can rarely happen when the brand takes a problem-solution approach, for obvious reasons. The solution (brand) comes to mind only when the problem arises.

L Suresh
L Suresh

That is why one needs an emotional reason - or a strong answer to the question, 'What's in it for me?' for this exercise to work.

The mouthwash category has gone about this with a simple insight. Instead of restricting themselves to killing germs, they have elevated their product benefit to a social level - killing bad breath. In other words, a deo for the mouth. Suddenly, using a mouthwash regularly made so much sense as it led to social acceptance and success thereafter. (Think Ponds, Close-Up and other brands that added confidence post usage.)

Can a nose wash come up with a similar benefit? Is a nose block a social deterrent like, say bad breath or body odour? (I would think not.) These are the questions that the nose wash brands need to answer to figure out if they can get their TA to add the practice to their daily routine.

Besides, the pandemic has already introduced two new habits to Indians who take the virus seriously - gargling and steaming. And both are natural and convenient - hot water, salt and some natural oils is all it takes. Also, the competition is not just from the kitchen, it's also from the pavement hawkers. India's cottage industry has come up with tiny 'steaming devices' that are selling like hot cakes at 100 bucks a piece, converting water into steam in half a minute.

In my opinion, the category will need to do more than just compare it with hand wash and recommend that it should be done twice a day. And FOMO may not be the way to go. The anti-Corona brigade, ranging from air conditioners to mattresses and suits, has ensured that the health warning route has become more congested than a blocked nose.