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Digital is playing a bigger role but TV is here to stay: Chella Pandyan, Marketing Director, Kimberly-Clark India

With 25 million births a year and a high number of ageing population, Kimberly-Clark – the maker of Huggies – sees a huge opportunity in India. Pandyan talks about advertising strategy for new-age mothers, the influence of digital and rural markets

Chella Pandyan

Marketers may be going gung-ho about digital but there are still some who believe television will continue to be the main medium for any mass category product.

Kimberly Clark, the company that sells products such as Huggies, believes that though new mothers are spending sizeable time on internet, TV is still the best medium for a baby diaper brand as rural reach is equally important. The baby diaper market is dominated by P&G’s Pampers, which had about 50 per cent share, while Unicharm’s Mamy Poko Pants grabbed about 34 per cent share by the end of 2016. Huggies stands third on the list, despite being one of the oldest brands.

Chella Pandyan, Marketing Director, Kimberly-Clark India, told Best Media Info, “Television and digital are the two big mediums for the diapering category. The rise of digital over the last 10 years has just been phenomenal and that is a direct reflection of where the mother spends most of the time.”

“The role of digital has only increased but I am a firm believer of the importance of TV in India,” he added.

In an interview with BestMediaInfo, Pandyan shared thoughts on the scope of growth for baby diapers, the communication strategy for new mothers, including millennials, the growing market for adult diapers the other products in the company’s basket.


Kimberly Clark is known for Huggies but you also have several other important products, including adult diaper and sanitary pad. Why don’t we see any advertising for these brands? Your competitors are already doing it on TV.

Currently, our focus is completely on Huggies. We feel that baby diaper still has got a lot of room to grow in India. Today, there are about 25 million births every year, while diaper usage is still a fraction of that. Huggies is a major part of our business. The adult diaper business is growing fast but is still a small segment right now. We are actively looking to participate in this growth. We have our global brand – Depend – in India, available on e-commerce platforms. At the right time, we will definitely address that.

We have chosen to focus on Huggies right now. When we feel the time is appropriate, we will surely take up consumer awareness for adult diapers. If you walk into a pharmacy today, you see adult diapers being displayed alongside the baby diapers. As affluent parts of our population are aging, adult diaper is becoming a reality for a lot of Indians. I think it’s just a matter of time that the adult diapers become mainstream and acceptable.

About the TVC by the international brand, it’s an extremely good development for the category because it drives awareness and acceptance. As a company, we welcome the move.

What is the size of the diaper market?

The baby diaper category is anywhere around Rs 4,000 crore per annum. The potential for growth for diapers over the next decade is extremely promising because there is a lot of room for penetration for the category. We are extremely bullish about its growth potential.

The adult diaper category would be about 10 per cent of the baby diaper category. But it is poised for explosive growth. There are a few countries where adult diaper is as big a category as infant diaper. The point I want to make is that it doesn’t matter how small the category is, it is more about how big it can grow in the next 10 years.

What is the percentage of sales, e-commerce versus offline?

E-commerce is a big part of our business. The good part is that when e-commerce started, it catered to urban consumers but as it is growing, we see e-commerce reaching the lengths and breadths of our country. So, there are lot of consumers who buy Huggies from smaller towns. It is an integral and fast growing part of our business.

A big advantage e-commerce offers is the virtually unlimited choice they can carry, which is going to be a challenge for brick-n- mortar stores. They are limited by space and they have to optimise the space.

In brick-n- mortar, a lot of times a certain brand or variant is not available. How much does marketing help, especially in-store marketing? Isn’t it challenging to convince consumers to switch brands?

Our understanding is that many mothers would ideally remain loyal to a brand till they face a problem. If you want a mother to change the brand, then you have to convince her that what you are giving is a better product than what she is using. She will believe only after trying or if someone close to her recommends. The role that a store plays is that of a catchment area for people to buy and interact with the store. It is a point of interaction with the mothers for us, just one of the many routes. Convincing mothers to switch brands can be done through two ways – either by sampling, or by extremely close and trusted word of mouth. Mothers are, otherwise, a bit wary of new brands and products and they don’t want to keep trying. It is equally a strength as it is a challenge because if someone is using my product, they might not move on to another brand. Our focus is to provide consumers with great products and make sure that they become evangelists of our products. The only way to make and keep a consumer is by giving them a great product at the right price.’’

There is a huge market for reusable cloth diapers too. Do you think that is penetrable with the disposable diapers? How much would be the size of reusable cloth diaper market?

Reusable cloth diaper has been a part of our tradition and upbringing and in my opinion it has a stronger role to play, even going forward. Disposable diapers provide an option of convenience and protection, but I don’t see one or the other completely replacing each other. Both will coexist for a long time and depending on household behaviour and habit, one will be stronger than the other at some places.

While advertising diapers, you need to target the ‘parents’. The age of first-time parents is increasing. What are the challenges in this passive targeting of advertisements?

I think that is the most interesting part about marketing diapers. Nobody knows best about the child as the mother. There cannot be a tougher gatekeeper than her. The most fascinating part is that everyone cannot convince the mother. As a brand that has been around for a long time and has developed trust with people, we see it as strength. We would like our products to cross the high bar of quality that the mother has set for her child.

Nothing fundamentally changes of whenever a person becomes a mum. The kind of emotional, lifestyle and household changes that happen is not related to the age of parents. The kid brings its own set of choice and challenges. A couple choosing to have baby at an older age doesn’t really make a difference to our marketing plans.

According to India Diaper Market Outlook, 2022, Mamy Poko Pants surpassed Huggies in the ranking. What are your plans and strategy to regain that share?

I am not aware of that specific report but in general, the more the competition, the better it is. That is what keeps the category alive and it makes us work harder. The other thing is that there’s so much room for growth for everybody in the category. We are only focused on what we can do to make more mums choose us.

The growth of the category in rural is much higher than in urban India. What are your plans to tap the rural market?

We are glad that the diaper market is on an acceptance curve in the rural markets. We don’t have a specific rural plan. Whatever we do is a national plan and that finds resonance in rural consumers too.

How much do you spend on advertising for Huggies? What is the split on different media platforms?

We spend adequately for a huge focus market. For Kimberly Clark, India is one of the focus markets. We definitely spend in line with our ambition in this market, adequately supporting the growth of the brand. I won’t be able to specifically pinpoint at a number because that keeps changing.

The split between the media platforms is evolving every day. Television and digital are the two big mediums for the diapering category. The rise of digital over the last 10 years has just been phenomenal and that is a direct reflection of where the mother spends most of the time. The kind of resources available online – for entertainment, information and influencing – continues to grow. There are other media that is selectively used, like outdoor and print.

Unlike other players in the baby diaper category, we have not seen Huggies advertising aggressively. Is it a conscious strategy?

We are more than adequately communicating to the mothers through all the mediums available to us. We just launched a new campaign but it’s too early to comment on the effectiveness. Our philosophy is that one of the things that a mother seeks in a diaper is protection for her baby. What we are saying through our campaign, which is a reflection of our philosophy and the product, is that this is India’s number one ‘Soft Pants’. This is based on an extensive all-India consumer research conducted by Nielsen.

Do marketers assess the ‘shareability’ of the ads as they assess the business effectiveness?

Shareability is another way of measuring the level of engagement that consumer brings to your communication. In the past, we would either test ads to know how much they like it or we would wait for sales to pick up. Those were the ways to know whether the ads are working. Today we have many more means to know. Comments and the shares that people do. It is a welcome development and it is also one more feedback loop of how consumers are connecting back to you.

People don’t share stuff they do not like. That’s a good input to marketers to know what consumers really think of the communication. Thinking in terms of hashtags is very important these days. Just how tagline played a vital role when television was the mainstream media, hashtag has a major role to play now. Each platform has its own requirements and needs. Hashtags make it easier to have an anchoring idea for digital, but the important thing is to have a central campaign idea, which is consistent with your brand and advertising across Platforms.

Spending on digital is becoming increasingly important for marketers, but why is this sentiment of ‘digital first’ being taken as a loss for TV? Do you think TV’s importance as a marketing tool is decreasing?

I can’t say exactly which is more important. The role of digital has only increased but I am a firm believer of the importance of TV in India. At least in the foreseeable future, as long as people spend time on TV, its importance would remain and I have not seen a discernible movement in that. Digital is playing a bigger role and there are no doubts about it, but TV is here to stay.


Is digital eating up in the ad spend of other mediums or are marketers spending additionally on digital?

You don’t start by – I will spend so much money on digital/ TV. It starts by ‘what is it that you are trying to communicate’. There are too many ways of communicating and advertising is just one of them. Sampling is one of them. There are no fixed numbers that we work with. There is no separate budget entitled for a certain platform. It is a very case to case specific thing and the media mix is changing. If you spend an x amount on marketing in one quarter, in the following quarter, it might change depending on the activity – say if we are launching a new product, a lot of money would go in sampling. I have a new campaign going on right now, about India’s best Soft Pants. So, a lot of our budgets are behind just taking that ad to the consumers.

Both mediums are important and they are getting the adequate resources that we need to spend to get both mediums adequately.


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