Shreyas Kulkarni

Nihar Naturals looks to shine a new way with Alia Bhatt

Marico CMO Awasthi explains why it chose Bhatt, its market strategy, and why it is betting big on TV.

Brand-building is akin to a head massage, slow and steady wins the race. Quick and jumpy only leads to a headache.

Nihar Naturals, the hair oil brand from Marico is getting ready for a slow new massage as it looks to penetrate further into the East market which it dominates with Alia Bhatt, its new brand ambassador.

“There is a perception that Nihar is an east-dominant brand,” counteracts Somasree Bose Awasthi, chief marketing officer (CMO), Marico.

She claims it is a market leader in the value-added hair oil segment and asserts the brand is “very big in the Hindi-speaking market (HSM) too.”

Nihar Naturals, as per Marico's website, has four variants: Nihar Naturals Coconut Hair Oil, Nihar Naturals Shanti Badam Amla, Nihar Naturals Sarson Kesh Tel, and Nihar Naturals Extra Care.

The Indian hair oil market, as per Research and Markets (in April 2023), a market research firm, is valued at USD 1,536.6 million and is expected to witness a CAGR of 5.80% over the next five years. Nihar competes with Dabur, Bajaj, Mamaearth, WOW Skin Science, Indulekha, and many more brands in the hair oil category.

Carrying the weight of the Nihar hair oil brands for 12 years has been actress Vidya Balan. “We can proudly say she has taken the brand to where it is. It is thanks to her, we are here. To take this brand to the next level, we needed someone equally if not stronger,” states the CMO.

The brand spoke to its consumers and concluded that today’s youth icon, right on top of her game, is Alia Bhatt. Add to it her support for the education of children; these two factors tipped the balance in her favour as the Marico-owned hair oil brand’s new face.

Team WPP has made two ads starring Bhatt.

Bhatt today is one of the top actresses in Bollywood, and so is Deepika Padukone who endorses Nihar’s rival Dabur hair oil. The start of another celeb-off?

Awasthi disagrees. “When you're the market leader, you do not have to worry about the next player,” she remarks and reveals they aim to penetrate further into the HSM and East markets.

Nihar Hair Oil is looking to win over women between the ages of 22 to 45. The CMO says that while it is the parents who make the buying choice for kids, once you are married, the in-laws mostly choose in joint families, or the lady in a nuclear set-up. “At 22, in the heartlands, you are mostly married or have a child,” and so the targeting.

Nihar has planned a mass-media reach for this campaign with television (GECs) taking up 70% of the media spends. “… Having said that if we look at the past and the kind of proportion of money, we are putting behind digital etc, that proportion will go up but it will be less than 30%,” she adds.

For all the mass appeal a celebrity brings, there is a pitfall too. Buyers understand an army of stylists and staff help celebrities appear the way they do on screen, an influencer added to the media mix would even the scales, wouldn’t it?

It turns out the brand has them under its media plans too. “We’ll use a lot of micro-influencers; celebrity influencers suffer the same fate as actors. A big celebrity will drive the reach and get the notice, and the micro-influencers will drive the credibility,” reveals Awasthi.

Nihar’s support for children’s education, an initiative which started in 2012, once again takes centre stage in the campaign starring Bhatt.

2023, however, is a different age from 2012. Today, any activity, even one with a noble intention, is looked at from a lens of suspicion because of the heavy dose of causevertising from ad land.

The CMO is not too concerned. She reveals the brand conducted a lot of consumer tests and research, and in the minds of buyers, one of the things Nihar stood out for was the purpose of education.

“We wanted a trajectory shift again after a decade… it's (supporting education) the same cause that will take us there,” comments Awasthi.

And as Nihar looks to make this shift with Bhatt, there is a risk of cannibalising sibling hair oil brand Parachute. “I do not see a risk at all,” says Awasthi explaining the two brands have different benefits on offer and two different target groups.

The two ads from Nihar will run as long films as well as edits. “… will be simultaneously running both edits, so that the entire thematic story lands with the long version and builds reach while the short edit builds frequency,” Awasthi remarks. 

Have news to share? Write to us