Tracing six decades of the Vasmol advertising journey, we take an in-depth look into how the brand communicated to bygone India and contemporized its messaging for the modern Bharat.
The other day when my mother was massaging my hair with some warm oil she also got to pluck out a grey hair. She reprimanded me to take extra care and amidst those jokes we went onto hum ‘Surakshit Kale Mere Baal, Vasmol Ne Kiya Kamaal’. Vasmol's advertising journey is as afresh as the memories of the song.
The iconic jingle is one of those advertising gems that we will relive for many more years. Today we relive the Vasmol advertising journey, and spare a few thoughts towards those grey and white strands.
Super Vasmol Kesh Kala
Hygienic Research Institute (HRI) is touted as one of the oldest companies in the Indian cosmetics products industry, established as a Small and Medium Enterprise by S. S. Nishan in 1957. Starting from a single unit in Punjab, the company went onto launch several cosmetic products and began sales across states.
When Kailash Chhabra took over the reins, one of the products launched was Super Vasmol as Vasmol Emulsified Hair Darkener in the late 50s. The hair color category was still at a very nascent stage and it was challenging for the brand to get people adapted to the habit of coloring hair which was a novel concept then. Thus started the Vasmol advertising journey in the 90s.
Birth of Vasmol Ads
There existed a large class and economic divide in India - many could afford luxury and a major part still stuck to basic needs. But the URGE to look young and vibrant did not see any class or gender or race or community. Black shiny hair was the need of the hour. After years of consumer research, HRI kickstarted Super Vasmol 33’s branding and advertising which majorly constituted TV ads.
India was just waking up to hair color as a grooming product. With such a drastic makeover agent which could turn grey hair into black, also came the fear of using chemical dyes and hence, many either avoided using hair colors or used them sparingly. Vasmol decided to take on this fear head-on with its flagship product Super Vasmol 33 Keshkala, positioned as an oil-based liquid hair darkening agent, which used natural oxidation to color hair rather than chemical-induced oxidation.
The primary challenge lied in explaining how to use and the safety aspect of the product.in simple terms and thus, came the legendary slogan “Surakshit Kaale mere Baal, Vasmol ne kiya Kamaal”.
Ashish Chhabra, Joint Managing Director, Hygienic Research Institute Pvt. Ltd (HRIPL) shares that the communication made SVKK a household name across millions of households. Brand Vasmol came to be understood as the safest way of coloring hair.
Anjan Chatterjee of Agency Situations was the brains behind the legendary jingle.
“A mass-market brand like Vasmol needed a sing-song creative. It proved to be so catchy that there are 100s of memes still being made around this jingle”, Chhabra added.
Promising ‘Natural looking Black Hair’
Later, through its communication, Vasmol unambiguously depicted Super Vasmol as a hair coloring oil, which needed to be applied like a pre-bath hair oil regime.
Chabbra tells us that a key feature of Vasmol advertising was the re-creation of common Indian households and ladies bonding over discussing their hair problems. "Through these relatable set-ups and female protagonists, we were able to establish Super Vasmol 33 Keshkala (SVKK) as that “Gharelunuskha” for getting the grey hair covered."
If we look into Vasmol’s advertising strategy closely, the brand’s key essence and focus have always been placing the product as a safe option that gives you, natural-looking Black Hair in a traditional, time-tested way.
Adding a Twist
With changing times and the rise of millennial, the brand tweaked its communication and elaborated on the science of safe hair coloring with the help of graphics.
Chhabra highlights, “The advertisements focus on depicting the harmful effects of peroxide present in hair colors and establishing SVKK as the only hair color which does not bleach the hair”.
During this phase, the brand also realized that the core consumer of Vasmol wants to hear the Vasmol story in a more emotional manner - the way Vasmol had been traditionally advertising and the way their moms and grandmoms understood the brand. Hence, a new communication highlighting the bond between a mom and daughter was created with the singsong line “Surskshit kale.”
The product’s unique appeal lied in its mixture of herbs and oil-like properties. While staying within this key proposition, and with a vision to further strengthen its foothold in the “Hair Care “category for the consumer with traditional Indian ethos, Vasmol started its journey of expansion by venturing into product formats other than Kesh Kala.
HRIPL’s Vasmol competed with giants like L'Oreal and Godrej. In 2008, the company recorded a turnover of INR 185 crore annually and held a 21 percent of the total market of the Indian hair color segment.
Later it forayed in the hair oil category with Vasmol Jasmine Hair Oil and introduced powder colors with the goodness of henna in the form of Kali Mehendi in the late 2000s.
A usual hair color advertisement in those times depicted female protagonists as the decision-makers. Following a similar route, Vasmol aimed at establishing itself as the trusted product for women, as the lady of the household who is also responsible for the purchase of most toiletries purchased for the day-to-day needs of the family.
Taking cues from earlier successes, Vasmol launched Black hair Oil (Vasmol black hair oil) in 2016 with its unique property of preventing premature greying of hair and communicated the same through its advertisements.
While earlier ads of Vasmol’s range of products featured actresses like Vidya Balan and a few others, HRIPL in 2018 roped in Kajol as the brand ambassador for their Vasmol Range of Hair Colours. The commercials leveraged her cheery and positive attitude while she endorsed the tag line, Yahi Hai Sahi Hair Colour.
The association came at a point when the brand embarked on a new phase of growth by reinventing itself for new user acquisition. The new and improved SVKK aspired to strengthen the brand’s appeal amongst a younger demographic who are thoughtful of their choices keeping in mind the safety aspect of hair color.
Later the brand’s creative responsibilities were given to Saints and Warriors under Pushpinder Singh and currently 82.5 Communications oversees the brand’s creative strategy under the creative supervision of Anuraag Khandelwal
An interesting part of the Vasmol advertising journey was the launch of Vasmol advanced crème hair color that didn’t have any bleaching agent. The brand took a quirky route in its promotion where the chemicals were portrayed as the popular Bollywood villains with Shakti Kapoor and Ranjeet virtually giving human faces to the harmful chemicals.
Most recently Vasmol launched a henna-based hair color with the central theme of “care for others starts with care for self”, am ode to everyday women.
“Vasmol has India at its core. The brand’s ability to appeal to “Bharat” within India has been the key to its success,” exclaims Chhabra. In FMCG and personal-care market, where brands are trying hard to westernize themselves to be more pertinent, Vasmol’s products find their roots in the time-tested methods of traditional Indian ways of hair care.
Chhabra believes that the
approach has helped Vasmol stay relevant and earn immense love from the patrons
over the years.
While the brand’s Twitter page seems to be inactive since 2014, its Instagram profile boasts of different template based creatives with hues of green and white. The brand currently is putting out informative posts around COVID-19, urging people to stay safe.
Generally, the content on Instagram majorly focuses on hair care solutions and how Vasmol’s product range can act as a savior in major skin and hair related problems with a tint of occasion-based creatives.
Meanwhile, it has also used the digital medium to create better awareness around the brand. Chhabra informs, “By using vernacular content, we have been able to reach a larger audience, established a better connection and engage with them on a regular basis”.
From the time ‘Kesh Kala’ was innovated to now, a lot has changed in the Vasmol Advertising Journey. Vasmol has reinvented itself envisioning to providing the best ‘hair care’ solutions made naturally with India at the core. A journey fruitful, a journey in process - Vasmol continues.