We will never see a celebrity as Santoor woman: S Prasanna Rai

Karuna Sharma
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S Prasanna Rai, Vice President – Marketing, Wipro Consumer Care & Lighting speaks to Social Samosa about the Santoor woman's evolution in the brand's campaigns over the years.

In the late 80s, newly entered FMCG giants such Lifebuoy and Lux were trying to capture the unorganized Indian soap market. Some leveraged celebrities such as Leela Chitnis and others focused on soap's functional aspects in their campaigns. The Santoor woman played an integral role in this market.

When Wipro Consumer Care launched its home-grown soap Santoor in 1986 to compete against international companies and had to stand out and appeal to all Indian women. That’s how Santoor’s jingle was born and its image of ‘ageless beauty’ was formed.

The brand campaigns featured everyday women in its advertisements who used the home-grown orange bar with natural ingredients to a get younger-looking glow. Santoor’s catchy jingle, “Haldi aur chandan ke gun samaye, Santoor…twacha kuch aur nikhare Santoor Santoor,” made a home in our hearts back in the 90s. It was a traditional soap for a modern woman.

Many revamps later, the orange bar’s key ingredients of turmeric and sandalwood and its Santoor moms have remained constant.

“Historically, we've been working on the positioning of younger-looking skin and that's been our campaign thought & brand thought for many, many years. This has given us results. And for a category like soaps, which is almost 100% penetrated in all households, it becomes a ‘brand-share’ fight. So, any brand, which is very uniquely positioned in the consumers' minds and is consistent with that positioning, tends to benefit. That's been our mantra of operating this brand,” said S Prasanna Rai, Vice President – Marketing, Wipro Consumer Care & Lighting.

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The New Face of Santoor Woman

While Santoor went through a repositioning exercise last week, its ‘young mom’ proposition, which has acted as its anchor, stayed.

This time, Santoor features dark-skinned women, too. These Santoor women are leaving their marks in different male-dominated industries. In one of the ads, as the supporting character presumes that the CEO position is chaired by a man, a young mother sits in the chair and leads the conversations. Her colleague asks, “Why can’t a young woman be a CEO?”

As per the brand’s press release, the campaign intends to “challenge common perceptions and long held beliefs of what a woman can do, what or who she can be. By thinking as young as she looks, the Santoor woman pushes limits not one step at a time, but by leaps and bounds.”

Sharing why the brand decided to update its image, Rai said, “Every two, three years, we keep doing consumer research to understand what has changed in their social life, which we then incorporate in the way Santoor woman is portrayed in our ads.”

The brand tries to stay attuned to the contemporary woman, said Rai, but she is not necessarily urban.

“When I say contemporary woman, I'm not talking about the Metro sec, a-plus woman because Santoor is a brand that is highly rural-focused. Almost 60% of our volume comes from rural markets and 40% from urban,” added Rai.

While the Santoor woman now excels in every department, she wasn’t always a paid working woman.

The late 80s saw the brand portraying traditional homemakers who were looking to take care of their skin. In the early 90s, the brand introduced women with talent and hobbies. Early 2000s were Santoor woman's working era, which then evolved into well-balanced mothers to celebrating all achievements at work. With its recent rebranding of ‘young soch,’ the brand intends to encourage women to come back to the workforce. The campaign says that 1 in 3 have dropped out of the workforce after their maternity leave and with this new campaign, the brand reminds the audience that moms can do it all if organizations can support them.

What is interesting about the brand's marketing campaigns is that it has never appointed an ambassador for the Santoor mom’s role. She has always been a common woman, who gets noticed by a celebrity for her beauty and achievements. Many actors have featured in this supporting role such as Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan, to name a few.

Rai said the Santoor woman will always be an everyday woman and never a celebrity.

“We will never see a celebrity as the main user . The user will always be featured as a common woman with whom our target group is able to relate. The reason we brought in the celebrities was that a normal woman when being appreciated by a celebrity, is the peak form of appreciation, which the consumer finds aspirational,” said Rai.

This year, apart from adding an important message to the communication of bringing back women to the workforce, Santoor has also refreshed its bar's fragrance. The bar comes with improved moisturization, said Rai.

Santoor's new campaign will be promoted heavily for the next two years across mediums. It is skewed towards traditional media, since the brand targets rural women. Television will get ~70% of the media share and the rest will be divided into OOH, digital, and print.

Currently, Rai said that Santoor is number one in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. He said that with its latest marketing efforts, the brand intends to continue holding its key position in existing markets and becoming the number one brand in other markets.

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