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Nobel Hygiene increases ad spends by 30%, eyes 5x growth over last year

Kartik Johari, VP, Nobel Hygiene, the makers of Rio sanitary napkins, tells how the brand has broken the decades-old misleading practice of showing blue liquid instead of red through its ads and why such conversations around periods don’t sit well with certain media gatekeepers

Kartik Johari

Adult diaper and sanitary napkin maker Nobel Hygiene has taken a 360-degree approach to its marketing strategies, and digital takes the lion share of its ad spends, followed by TV and on-ground activities. While it has increased its ad spends by 30% for this year, it is keeping a close eye on on-ground events and locked its budgets for the medium.

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Kartik Johari, VP, Nobel Hygiene, said ad spends this year will definitely be more than what it spent last year.

“There's a 30% increase from what we spent last year and the maximum of it will go to digital. There’s nothing specific for the print medium. However, we do acknowledge the role print plays in education. There is a massive amount of things we can do with print. But for us as a brand, we're going to wait till our distribution gets a bit stronger till we jump into this for a longer term,” he said.

While Nobel Hygiene is already considered an undisputed leader in the adult diaper category, last year it entered the sanitary pads category with the launch of ‘Rio pads’ in the market. Soon after the launch, Covid-19 hit the country and the resultant lockdown had had a massive impact on the brand.

Johari said while the entire launch campaign was disrupted, this year it has aggressive plans to promote Rio.

“On Covid-19, as a company I think we're very privileged that we play in all the categories where the product needs are pretty inelastic, whether it is baby diapers, sanitary napkins, or adult diapers. It's not like a chocolate biscuit that you will forgo eating or change your brand. This is an essential product and will continue to be treated as such. The supply chain was affected in the first quarter and half of the lockdown. By the time the first lockdown ended, I think all companies had become pretty well-adjusted to how the supply chain was now functioning in the new Covid era. We hope to achieve 5x of whatever we achieved last year,” he added.

In its one year of existence, Rio has made a name for itself in this over-competitive space of sanitary napkins by breaking some stigmas around menstruation and discussing them in its ad campaign.

Explaining how the brand has an edge over others, he said, “We've made our name by simply staying true to the consumer. I think we managed to find a space in which a large subset of consumers was being ignored by the traditional players in the market. We came up with a product that suited their needs; our communication was honest and straightforward. This is why we've naturally made our place in the market. We are so used to tiptoeing around multinational giants with baby diapers; we now have only multinational competition. We are aware of exactly how to play this. One has to make sure to find your own niche, stay very authentic to your customers."

Rio is the first pad brand that broke the ‘blue blood rule’ when it launched its pan-India campaign last year, putting to bed the decades-old misleading practice of showing blue liquid instead of blood.

He shared how after the launch of the campaign, many consumers were just so happy that someone's finally painting an honest portrayal of what periods are supposed to be, and not like as it is shown on ads where women are shown comfortably wearing white pants during periods without any fear of spotting.

“Just by talking about it, honestly, we've managed to really win a lot of consumers for sure. Who else is going to do this (break the stigma)? Multinational brands have been around for numerous years, but it's not really their prerogative to go and pick up this battle and shake the nest. There are loads of great consumer start-ups in this space as well. But it is so risky for a start-up that is just growing out, to take up such a communication as it may be banned and may face backlash. So when we came up with this idea of heavy flow pads, and when we were deciding on what the bold communication needs to be, I think this was at the forefront of our mind — that who's going to pick this battle up if not anyone else; are we courageous enough to take it to the end? If the ad is banned, so be it. We want to be the ones who want to take this fight on,” he said.

The ad with Radhika Apte:

The brand is very much on board with its association with Radhika Apte for this year as well as it has been a successful tie-up. It will launch the second leg of the campaign later this year.

Johari emphasised the importance of sanitary napkins brands raising education around menstruation.

“This is one of those categories in which the onus of education falls on the brand since you are interfacing with millions of women and girls every year. The current state of sanitary napkins is still so basic in terms of education or conversations. I think there is a lot more potential there for innovation,” he said.

For the next half-a-decade, the brand intends to stick around to the sanitary napkin category, while building the core premise of more usage of products and making more women comfortable.

He said it is often seen that such thought-provoking conversations around periods don’t sit well with certain media gatekeepers, though changes are happening now.

“It's very positive to see the industry respond to our campaign. Initially, there was massive backlash, and people said you can’t show this on TV. But now that the first hurdle has been crossed, I think suddenly everyone's a lot more generous by allowing conversations to happen and are willing to post them or print them, etc. So there's been a definite improvement. And we hope this continues for the next few years,” he added.

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