The deodorant category in Pakistan registered a 17% retail value growth in 2015 (Source: Deodorants in Pakistan, Euromonitor International Country Report, 2016), mainly attributed to increased per capita spending by men on personal grooming products. With these statistics in view, the Hilal Group of Companies recently launched Bold as a premium deodorant brand to tap into this growing market potential.
The Pakistan Economic Survey 2014-15 estimates the cumulative value of the formal, domestic market for cosmetics and personal care products to be in excess of Rs 150 billion. Within this category, deodorants have registered the maximum year-on-year growth and Unilever Pakistan is the category leader with an approximate 40% share (Axe and Rexona) and a handful of smaller brands account for the remaining 60% of the market.
Several market studies conducted by Hilal in collaboration with Nielsen Pakistan (2013-15) revealed that the deodorant category is projected to grow annually by seven percent over the next four years, due to increasing hygiene awareness. This prompted Hilal’s decision to take advantage of its operational knowhow, distributor and supplier relationships, and market credibility to diversify from food, beverages and confectionaries to the personal and homecare market. Consequently, a separate business unit, Hilal Care, was established in 2015 to capitalise on this growth opportunity.
The customer surveys and focus groups that were conducted to determine the product portfolio for Hilal Care highlighted an interesting market dynamic. Exposure to international media channels has increased personal hygiene awareness among men aged between 20 and 25, who are now willing to spend a sizeable amount of their income on quality personal care products.
According to Shayan Rizwan, Associate Brand Manager, Hilal Care, “there was no local brand catering to this growing demand and this is the target market we were aiming to capture.”
The deodorant category comprises sprays (the most commonly used form), followed by stick and solid deodorants and roll-ons (other formats include creams, pumps and wipes). Bold was launched in a lesser known sub-category that Rizwan describes as ‘gas-free body sprays’. What differentiates it from conventional aerosol deodorant sprays is its substantially higher liquid to air content ratio, thanks to its gas-free formulation, compared to regular aerosol deodorant sprays. Rizwan adds that “this is Bold’s USP; we are the only local player offering a gas-free version.”
Ovais Khawaja, Senior Account Manager, Adcom Leo Burnett, points out that “Bold is not the first gas-free body spray to be launched in South Asia. Fogg (launched by Vini Cosmetics in India in 2012) offered a similar value proposition and attracted customers with the tagline of ‘No Gas, Only Deo’. In fact, both Rizwan and Khawaja consider Fogg to be Bold’s direct competitor. While Fogg guarantees at least 800 sprays per can, Bold’s claim (printed prominently across the packaging) is a minimum of 1,000 sprays per can.
Hilal Care’s decision to go down the unconventional route of developing a gas-free deodorant was based on two primary considerations. Firstly, given that the target audience are young men, the aspect of affordability was a major consideration for the brand team.
According to Rizwan, “Bold was developed on a value for money model. While the current price of Rs 300 (Axe carries a tag of about Rs 350 and Fogg approximately Rs 500) may come across as higher than the market average, the volume of air in the can is negligible, which means it will last almost twice as long as a regular aerosol body spray.” Secondly, by virtue of being gas-free, the liquid droplets do not evaporate as quickly as gas vapours, and hence the fragrance stays for a longer duration. Khawaja adds that the target audience had rated a long-lasting fragrance as one of the most crucial deciding factors in their purchase decision, and “we wanted to ensure that the final product factored in this customer preference.”
In addition to incorporating the target audience feedback into the product, there were several challenges that Hilal Care had to navigate during the product development phase. To start off, short listing fragrances from thousands of options which would appeal to young Pakistani men while being different from those available in the market was a daunting task. Rizwan recalls that “there were extensive scent selection tests conducted over the course of a year before the six variants (active, classic, energy, fresh, noir and spice) were finalised.”
"Fawad Khan is currently the most trending celebrity and represents the self-confidence, panache and style that we want Bold to be synonymous with."
— Ovais Khawaja, Senior Account Manager, Adcom Leo Burnett
Next, to ensure a product of the highest quality, top-tier scent formulation experts from the UK were brought on-board to develop a fragrance range that would be one-of-its-kind, and appeal to the maximum number of people. As product safety was a paramount consideration – sub-par manufacturing poses serious health risks for consumers – Hilal Care decided to set up its manufacturing facility in the strictly regulated industrial zones in the UAE. Only after the final product is packed is it shipped to Pakistan for sale. Rizwan says the logistics of coordinating a supply chain between three countries was a huge challenge, particularly in terms of preventing product damage during the shipment, and managing distribution schedules which their sales teams had already committed to with local retailers.
Although Bold has been launched in Karachi initially to gauge market response, Rizwan says that “in the coming humid, summer months, when the need for deodorants is at its maximum, Bold will be available in Faisalabad, Islamabad, Lahore, Multan and almost 60 adjoining towns.”
Given that Bold is a personal hygiene product, the brand team, as well as Adcom Leo Burnett (the creative agency), were unanimous that positive word-of-mouth should drive sales, instead of capital-intensive ATL tools. As a result, most of the marketing budget was allocated to set up almost 60 brand activation stalls in retail outlets in SEC A and B areas across Karachi. Brand representatives approached potential customers and encouraged them to try the different variants, while free samples were also handed out.
“The objective,” Rizwan points out, “was to induce product trial; if customers are happy with the product, they are more likely to purchase it.”
In an effort to further increase brand awareness, an extensive OOH and print campaign was executed. Black was used in the package design (executed by the in-house creative team) to create a brand image of sophistication.
Khawaja explains that the “idea was to create an aspirational brand and this is why Fawad Khan was chosen as the face of Bold. He is currently the most trending celebrity and represents the self-confidence, panache and style that we want Bold to be synonymous with.”
Rizwan interjects here to further explain that the brand’s tagline ‘Change the game’ is a “call to action for the young men of Pakistan. By making Bold a part of their identity, people will be giving themselves the chance to be their best selves.”
While the initial sales targets have been surpassed, Rizwan is aware of the challenges that Hilal Care will need to tackle to sustain Bold’s success. He says that the company is keeping a close eye on fluctuations in the foreign currency exchange rate and the changing international regulatory environment for personal care products. The core ingredient is imported and the manufacturing setup is located offshore; if input costs rise, they will have to be offset by a price increase and this may not be acceptable to the target audience. To mitigate this business risk, shifting the manufacturing to Pakistan is under consideration, although in Rizwan’s opinion, “at present, Pakistan lacks the infrastructure and raw material suppliers that are integral to Bold.”