"Want to make the act of shoe polishing relevant again": Reckitt's Sukhleen Aneja

By Aishwarya Ramesh , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising
Published : May 08, 2019 03:45 AM
Shoe Polish brand Cherry Blossom is out with new ads - nothing like the vintage Charlie Chaplain ads of yore. A look at the brand's marketing strategy in a new world.

Cherry Blossom is back with a new two-ad campaign, but there is no black and white, silent-film feel this time. The new ads place shoe polish in a modern context in two different settings where making a good impression is important. The ads also lightly touch upon aspects of sincerity and hard work.

Sukhleen Aneja Sukhleen Aneja

"Over the last few years, we have witnessed a decline in the relevance of polishing shoes. As the market leader, the onus is on us to revive the habit. Our endeavour through this campaign, is to increase the importance of polishing shoes in the consumer's life, thus making the act relevant again," says Sukhleen Aneja, CMO and marketing director, Hygiene Home, South Asia, Reckitt Benckiser.

"Our brief was to make the act of polishing shoes relevant again and an attempt to revive the simple habit of polishing shoes by linking it with the value of discipline. The vintage look and feel was a deliberate choice to invoke nostalgia, thus making the emotional response to the creatives more powerful. This is our first digital campaign for Cherry since our TG is mostly on social media," she says.

It's interesting to note that the brand has announced new ad films after a gap of more than ten years. Before this, Cherry Blossom was best known for Alyque Padamsee's ads. Padamsee was responsible for creating a series of iconic ads that starred a Charlie Chaplin lookalike called 'Cherry Charlie.' In KV Sridhar's book - The 30 Second Thrillers - the late Padamsee said that he created an ad that seemed like a scene straight out of a Charlie Chaplin film and pointed out that it created a whole new affinity for Cherry Blossom.

"In our research, we found out that the sale of Cherry Blossom was stagnant because the brand had already captured 90 per cent of the branded shoe-polish market and youngsters had a weird perception about polishing shoes. They felt - ki yeh to naukaron ka kaam hai (this is a servant's job). I felt that the way to break this perception would be to provide the act of polishing shoes a certain status along with a dose of entertainment. That's when the idea of using Charlie Chaplin as a character came about. I noticed that every Charlie Chaplin movie had at least one shoe polishing scene, thus I used it as leverage and weaved a Cherry Blossom story around it." This is how Padamsee described his thought process, as per the interview in Sridhar's book.

Cherry Blossom ad A vintage ad for Cherry Blossom featuring supermodel Nandini Sen

ALSO READ: Reckitt Benckiser teaches self branding

Considering it has been nearly a decade since Cherry Blossom has advertised, we asked experts to weigh in on the brand's strategy and to critique their current ads.

Saurabh Mathur - Head Planning and Strategy, VMLY&R, India

Saurabh Mathur Saurabh Mathur

If we were to look at the category, there are only a couple of brands that have truly owned top of mind recall for the longest time. The top among them used to be Cherry Blossom. I say 'used to' because the category itself has become irrelevant for a vast majority of Indians.

When it comes to shoes, for most urban Indians, the conversation around 'shoe condition' has moved on from being an emotional tug to being a functional one. Meaning, consumers today consume a lot more content around 'the right shoe' and 'shoe care' than whether polishing your shoes is related to your 'attention to detail' at work, for example.

It's been a decade since Cherry Blossom did their last campaign and that's a long time for any brand not to speak with their consumers. But it also allows the brand to go beyond anything they have done before. We have seen this with iconic brand communication 'relaunches' like Royal Enfield, Vespa etc. Keeping that in mind I feel the communication could have been more adventurous and pushed the boundaries a bit. However, the positive is that any communication that Cherry Blossom does will have a positive effect on an already strong brand recall within the category.

Whether they are successful in making the brand relevant again, remains to be seen. The communication is based on a tried and tested formula of driving responsibility and discipline which seem like triggers that consumers do not associate with shoe polish anymore.

Neeraj Bassi - Chief Strategy Officer and managing partner, Publicis India

Neeraj Bassi Neeraj Bassi

The ads are well executed with good performances, but there are some strategic aspects to think about. Firstly, the repertoire of shoes has increased and now there are a number of shoe styles that do not require polishing. Having said that, there is still a segment of formal shoes, those that require polishing, where unpolished/dirty shoes are noticed and do not project a good image of the wearer.

The Cherry Blossom ads are addressing that segment of the market with a specific focus on school children and office goers. And they have picked interesting insights into these consumers. I particularly liked the line - sincerity should not have a probation period.

Connecting the act of polishing shoes with personality attributes is an interesting way to bring the product into focus. I think they will connect with the segment that is still polishing their shoes. Whether the ad works or not, we will only know in a while. But it is a good shot to bring attention to a category that was fading from public memory.

Himanka Das Himanka Das

Himanka Das - Chief Executive Officer, Vizeum India

The Cherry Blossom ads are a brilliant demonstration of creative execution based on consumer insights to make a product contemporary. Everyone knows that shoe polish is a shoe polish. It's a smart step to communicate product benefit as a cultural emotional quotient rather than talking about offering. Offering sounds commoditised.

Polishing shoes is a simple part of grooming that needs to be inculcated at every stage of one's life right from being in school to their work journey. There are typically four types of dress codes: business formal, business professional, business casual and casual. In today's competitive and modern business world, it is highly essential to adhere with professional appearance and grooming for the workplace. If you have the desire to look your best at all times in social and professional settings then you need to wear well polished shoes.

Campaign credits:
Creative Agency: Tilt Brand Solutions
Creative Team: Kedar Teny, Chief Strategy Officer, Tilt Brand Solutions and Shriram Iyer, Chief Creative and Content Officer, Tilt Brand Solutions
Director: Rahul Sengupta
Production House: Tilt Studios

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