Shreyas Kulkarni

Dettol lathers up with new Aloe Coconut and Strawberry handwash variants 

What about the brand’s classic antiseptic smell now that it has launched a Foaming Handwash line?

You see a pop of silvery cloud when it touches the water and then there is the classic antiseptic smell. Well, someone near you is definitely using Dettol.

The Reckitt brand has been one of India’s most in-demand disinfectant and cleaning supplies brands for decades. The cloud and smell are its biggest allies.

So, colour us surprised when we saw the brand’s new ad, created by McCann, about a new Foaming Handwash line in two variants (fragrances): Aloe Coconut and Strawberry.

According to a press release from the brand, “Dettol’s new product offering, the Foaming Handwash, promises to keep your hands moisturised, owing to its moisture-rich foam and soothing components, while ensuring 10x better germ protection.”

Dilen Gandhi, regional marketing director, South Asia – health & nutrition, Reckitt, said, “Dettol has been protecting homes and families for decades. Pioneering the hand hygiene space, we continue to innovate and deliver products that elevate the consumer experience.”

“Our new product – Dettol Foaming Handwash, is a superior product offering for consumers, who are looking for protection, cleanliness and moisturising, all-in-one. We are certain that this product will be loved by families and children.”

Palmolive and Mi are the other two brands selling foaming handwash.

We were surprised to see Dettol veer away from its USP in the latest ad.

Two things stood apart for us in the 40-second ad. First, the focus on the foam. It doesn’t feel like an old Dettol ad, with the strong antiseptic equity of its handwash/liquid/soap.

Then the two fragrances. For a brand widely recognised for its antiseptic smell (it’s reassuring for so many of us), it’s quite odd.

Is the brand using the foam to market itself to a wider audience? And, speaking of the fragrances, could it be that Dettol may be looking to lure those consumers who’re not fans of its classic antiseptic smell?

Says Nisha Sampath, a brand marketing consultant with 20-plus years of experience, “Germ kill has become such a huge category and so segmented that I think Dettol’s (germ kill) equity has become neutralised.”

Nisha Sampath
Nisha Sampath

To reclaim its position, the “brand is choosing the route of product innovation,” she remarks and adds that foaming handwash is a relatively new category in India. So, by launching this product, Dettol is showing innovation and modernity, and building on its legacy of trust.

“It (Dettol) has captured the benefit correctly in the ad, because the foam does make it easier to wash hands. Regular handwash is sticky.”

Speaking about the two fragrances, Sampath says that mothers will choose Dettol, but kids may not like the smell. “The brand has to reinvent itself, and moving away into fragrances is the logical thing to do. Fragrance is a powerful trigger of memory, good and bad… After the last year, memories of the hospital, sterile smell, etc., are a no…”

Sharda Agarwal
Sharda Agarwal

For Sharda Agarwal, co-founder, Sepalika, a healthcare advisory, Dettol created a strong, distinctive fragrance that became synonymous with the antiseptic category. The brand did such a fabulous, consistent job of building that equity that it became a big entry barrier.

Savlon had a challenge in its early years (and possibly still continues to have) to prove its efficacy because it didn’t have the typical “antiseptic smell”.

"Is this new launch aimed to capture the child TG that’s driven by the excitement of fragrance? Possibly," she opines.

She muses if Dettol can continue to build and strengthen its core antiseptic equity via launches and communication, while pursuing new peripheral opportunities like this one? Or, will this fragrance-led launch dilute its core antiseptic equity?

"Well, only time and brand custodians will tell," remarks Agarwal.

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