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How 80-year-old Hamam is taking on new-age ayurveda-centric soap brands

From being one of the first natural Indian-made soap brands to a champion of women’s and girl’s safety, Hamam’s journey in the country has been quite eventful

Long before ayurveda became the buzzword for India's cosmetic and beauty products industry, one soap brand was already selling the USPs of neem and tulsi to Indian consumers for decades.

Launched as a ‘mild, family soap’ in 1931, Hamam has a legacy that spans more than 80 years in the country.

One of the first natural Indian-made soap brands, Hamam (from the house of Unilever) today is a Rs 300-crore strong brand and a market leader in Tamil Nadu.

“Hamam has always been a naturals brand that took pride in itself on being the mother’s choice for skin protection. Over the years, it became one of the largest skin cleansing brands in the country, then downsized to a narrower geography focus, all the while remaining simply the largest and most-loved skin cleansing brand in its core market of Tamil Nadu,” said a HUL Company spokesperson.

Just last year, the brand brought Ogilvy on board as its creative agency and shifted the communication strategy from product-oriented advertising to inspirational advertising. With the campaign #GoSafeOutside, Hamam became a champion for women’s and girl’s safety. The brand has continued to use the same thought in its latest campaign as well.

Commenting on the brand’s communication trajectory, the spokesperson said, “Hamam has been a brand built on simplicity, authenticity and empowering mother-child relationships."

"Much like the multi-faceted neem, Hamam has always found different ways of harnessing mother’s wisdom as an expression of care and education for the child. As mothers have evolved from wanting to cocoon and protect their children at all costs to empower them to tackle life on their own, Hamam has evolved with them," he added.

Hamam is no doubt a legacy brand that consumers all over the country are aware of, but a brand that has, in recent times, limited its communication efforts to its stronghold of Tamil Nadu. According to the spokesperson, finding a way to leverage a strong brand recall into consistent sales that can enable increased communication remains an ongoing challenge that the brand grapples with.

Speaking about another challenge that the brand has faced through its time in the country, the spokesperson said, “Soaps with high natural content struggle with delivering the bright colours or strong and pleasant fragrances that consumers have come to associate with soaps. Being able to deliver a great sensory experience to help users feel good while not going away from the ‘do good’ aspect of a natural soap has been a constant challenge.”

According to the spokesperson, Hamam is Tamil Nadu’s largest skin cleansing brand and TN remains the bedrock of its user base. Karnataka and Maharashtra are its other large markets.

While Hamam was a pioneer when it comes to ‘natural’ soaps, today natural and ayurvedic products are gaining much traction.

How does Hamam then plan to stand out and retain its USP?

“Hamam has had the multi-faceted ingredient of neem at its heart for very long time. The new product, with 100% pure neem oil, harnesses one of nature’s most powerful ingredients for protecting skin from heat, dust and pollution and stands out even amid the clutter as one of the most trustworthy natural solutions for skin protection," the spokesperson said.

"However, Hamam as a brand has evolved to look at protection via a more holistic lens — working on combating all elements that prevent one from going safe outside. This endeavour to enable holistic safety for women and children as they step outside their homes resonates with our mothers and draws them in to working with us on these issues,” the spokesperson added.

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