Personal care brands need to go beyond promoting beauty: Poulomi Roy

Poulomi Roy, Chief Marketing Officer, RSH Global, speaks about the growth of the personal care market in India, evolution of the men’s grooming business, and more. 

Ayurveda has become a big phenomenon and we have seen it grow. That has opened doors for a lot of companies that were losing traction to revive and revamp their products. This is the flavour of the season. We are in the natural space and not Ayurveda. In the personal care category, a brand has to be a consistent and long-term player. This comes from not just branding and marketing, but also from how consumers are relating to the product. Most of the products on our shelves are from multinationals that have been present in the country for 30-40 years. 

Technically speaking, in the personal care segment Joy is perhaps the only company that has a complete range of products – skin care, hair care and all of that. But will not find hair oil, soaps or toothpaste, which are slightly more commoditised in nature. 

My learning in personal care comes from the insight that after what we eat, the next most important thing is what we put on our face. When it comes to the consumer, you need to have that trust building factor. 

It has been 30 years since RSH Global started making products and selling to the Indian diaspora. They have been promoting in the ATL space since 2011.  Since 2014, the marketing platform for RSH Global and brand Joy has been steadily revamped. What has helped us is investing in good R&D, good packaging and investing in a voice of branding that nobody else is talking about. We are now at a 25 per cent CAGR year on year growth. 

Creating customisation 

In 2014, we did a big consumer research. We went across to P1 and P2 states. We spoke to people who were using and not using our brands, primarily women across categories. We wanted to understand how we want to speak to them and how we are speaking to them. The research provided a lot of interesting insights. The life of women today is very different from that of their mothers and grandmothers. A common thread was that while women are engaged in multiple activities, everyone wants to look good. When we asked them who their role model was in terms of beauty and looks, most of them said, Deepika Padukone. 

Women don’t want personal care products to just accentuate their beauty. That is where we drew our bigger brand slogan for Joy, which is ‘Beautiful by Nature’. That’s how we came up with our first communication. Whatever, we do at Joy by way of communication, we take up stories which have the core proposition of ‘Beautiful by nature’. Everyone wants to look a certain way and we thought that was a pressure point that should address. 

One of our big products right now is Honey Almond Lotion. For the brand campaign, we decided to highlight certain stereotypes that are attached to women and their beauty. We have tried to keep it related to the personal care segment, because at the end of day we are a brand that talks about personal care products. 

You will notice that even when you are casting a normal face, you tend to typecast it in a certain way. We decided to challenge these stereotypes. For instance, when you see an overweight woman, you can call them smart and witty, but the quintessential ‘beautiful’ is never mentioned. If you have a powerful message, you need to internalise that factor first. 

Bringing in comedienne Bharti Singh for our Honey Almond Lotion was a great success. She needed no introduction as our TG was already familiar with her and she has a huge fan following. But the challenge was, since it was her first TVC, we were not sure how she would be accepted as a brand ambassador, and that too for a skin care brand. 

In our next campaign for Honey Almond Lotion, we chose someone who falls into the quintessential category of beauty – actress Mouni Roy. The stereotype that we attacked was that beauty and brains are a rare combination. Just because someone is beautiful, nothing of her other side is displayed by default. Mouni is a graduate of Miranda House and Jamia Millia Mass Communication and is extremely well read. In the TVC, we picked on the thought that she knows what she is picking up as a product. We decided on the knowledge part. 

Stereotypes in men’s segment too 

Mens’ grooming is a very interesting topic generally. One defines grooming as a culture, it is all about cutting, trimming, filing. But in the Indian market, I often find that fairness creams are tagged into grooming. But my submission is that fairness is not something that is related to grooming. Fair & Lovely has been a dominant player and is in huge demand in the Asian subcontinent. Fair & Handsome, launched with Shah Rukh as the brand ambassador, gave birth to a Rs 400-crore category. Prior to their launch, a category such as this was completely stagnant because nobody asked a man whether he wanted a fairer skin or not. 

We have been born into a sociological structure where since ancient times men could go out to get a shave or a massage, but the whole personal care aspect for women was to do it at home. There wasn’t a time when she would go out and do a facial like we do today. 

Joy has a men’s product range, for which Jadeja is the brand ambassador. There is a brilliant progression happening in men’s grooming with the introduction of a wide product range – such as shaving foam, beard gel, face wash, moisturisers, etc. Odour has also been synonymous with men; while earlier Ittar has been in use, now men have migrated to deodorants, perfumes, body mists, etc. 

There is a very small section of men who are metrosexual in the Indian diaspora. I think metro sexuality for Indian men still has a long way to go. Even though it is on the rise, the base is still very small. So, whatever growth happens seems much bigger in comparison. You have to contextualise it on the basis of the current scenario. 

According to me, there are only two big mass players in the men’s grooming category – Garnier and Nivea Men. The rest are boutique players who are into beard wax, gels and serums. It is a drop in the ocean.


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