Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Jun 15, 2002
After fairness creams, HLL, CavinKare in shampoo war
CHENNAI, June 14
TRADITIONAL rivals CavinKare Ltd and FMCG major Hindustan Lever (HLL) are once again involved in a skirmish, this time over their shampoo brands.
The first salvo was fired a week ago when HLL introduced banners and pamphlets for its Clinic Plus Protein Shampoo in the rural markets of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The visuals in the banners, which are in Telugu and Tamil, highlight the benefits of using Clinic as against using an `ordinary shampoo'. A rough translation of the copy used for the `ordinary shampoo' says `Other than not removing oil properly, it does not give you better cleansing', while the copy for Clinic runs `While removing oil completely, it also delivers best cleansing'.
CavinKare's grouse is that the visual in the banner draws unfair comparisons to an `ordinary shampoo' and that "is an absolute replica of the Chik shampoo sachet with the brand name "mischievously" replaced as `Ordinary Shampoo'.
However, a HLL spokesman told Business Line, "Banners of Clinic Plus Protein Shampoo do highlight the superiority of the product as compared to any other ordinary shampoo. We market a superior product (Clinic Plus Protein Shampoo removes oil completely, and provides better cleansing), and think that it is entirely justified and legal to underscore that superiority, without making any disparaging comment / allusion about any competitor."
The spokesman added that such comparative advertising is a "well-accepted practice in promoting competition and making consumers aware of choices to enable them to make informed decisions".
Counters Mr B. Nandakumar, President-Marketing & Sales, CavinKare Pvt Ltd: "If the ad is against ordinary shampoos in general, why pick on one brand and depict its pictorial identity? Why use such a look-alike and call it ordinary shampoo?" In fact, as Mr Nandakumar says, if comparative advertising was used mentioning the shampoo brand, it would have been direct and acceptable as a competitive practice.
He says that competitive advertising based on "facts" can benefit the consumer if it is within accepted norms. CavinKare's press statement says, "Unnerved by the tremendous success of Chik, HLL has resorted to a devious campaign aimed at misleading consumers in the rural market in a manner which is hitting below the belt." Mr Nandakumar adds that CavinKare is contemplating legal action and is "waiting for counsel on this".
HLL on its part declares that there is no resemblance between the banner and any CavinKare visuals. "There is nothing in the banner which resembles any photograph/pack graphic of any competing product, least of all Chik shampoo," says the company spokesperson.
The spokesperson goes on to add: "It is CavinKare which has in the past resorted to measures such as infringing HLL's patented skin lightening technology, and then had to give an undertaking that it would not do so." He also claims that when CavinKare relaunched Chik shampoo last year it emulated the pack graphics of Lux shampoo. "HLL did not take umbrage to this emulation of Lux pack graphics in the spirit of marketplace competition," he adds. However, Mr Nandakumar says the design of Chik is in no way an "emulation" of Lux as the design principles are different and the differences are there in full public view.
A perusal of ORG data, however, reveals some interesting numbers. In April this year, Chik had an overall market share (volume) of 21.19 per cent against the 15.18 per cent it had at the same time last year. The corresponding figures for Clinic were 29.19 per cent and 22.95 per cent.
HLL on its part claims that according to ORG figures, Clinic Plus Protein Shampoo had a market share (in value terms) in April 2002 of 27 per cent against Chik's share of 8.89 per cent. The company's spokesperson claims its share of the low-price segment of the shampoo market (packs priced at Rs 1 and below) has increased from 5 per cent in 2000 to 13 per cent this year, while Chik has moved from 11 per cent to 20 per cent in the same period.
"We would therefore say it is Chik which is feeling threatened, and hence these unfounded allegations about Clinic Plus Protein Shampoo banners," the HLL spokesperson declares. However, as the press statement from CavinKare declares: "Chik is a strong contender for the No 1 brand of shampoo in the country and is set to dethrone HLL's Clinic Plus from the top spot." The `shampoo wars', it seems, are far from over.
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