Aurora Magazine

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Don’t Cut, Peel or Grate. It’s Only Shampoo.

Lifebuoy Shampoo launches their variant, Naturally Strong, with onions as its core ingredient.
Published 03 Jan, 2024 10:52am

The uses of the humble onion reach far beyond just the kitchen. I would know, considering my mother extracts its water, mixes it with mayonnaise and aloe vera gel and then applies this nasty-smelling concoction to my head to stimulate hair growth and strength. Not only does she leave the hair mask on for over three hours; it takes me at least three shampoo washes to get the mixture and its odour out of my hair. 

Easing this process for both mothers and daughters was exactly the idea behind the launch of the newest variant of Lifebuoy Shampoo, Naturally Strong, with the onion as one of its core ingredients. The variant was launched during the summer season because, according to Zoha Akhtar, Assistant Brand Manager, Lifebuoy Shampoo, “People usually prefer to try new shampoos in the summer as they wash their hair more regularly during that period.” 

Lifebuoy Shampoo’s previous variants include Herbal Strong (with milk protein and aloe vera), Strong and Thick (with milk protein and almond oil), Silky Soft (with milk protein and mustard oil) and Naturally Long (with amla, reetha and shikakai). For the Naturally Strong formulation, the team chose onions and aloe vera as the main ingredients. This was after they noticed, through their consumer outreach programmes and research on digital media, that consumers regularly use these two ingredients not only separately, but together as well in order to improve hair strength and thickness. 

Faizan Zaheer, Brand Manager, Lifebuoy Shampoo, goes on to mention that the new Naturally Strong variant builds on the core benefit offered by all previous Lifebuoy Shampoo variants – strength. However, with the addition of onions, the variant also offers users thick hair. “Within our shampoo portfolio, we tweaked the formulation to make it our best product yet.”

After deciding to opt for onions as their core ingredient, the Lifebuoy Shampoo team had to figure out how to make the new variant appeal to consumers who were already using onion water or onion oil for their hair. After speaking to over 100 consumers about how they used onions for their hair, the team learned that the process was extremely tedious, involving the lengthy and malodorous process of peeling, cutting and grating onions in order to extract onion water which they would then apply to their hair. 

“And then we were like, bingo! This is what our big idea will be: ‘Na cheelo, na kaato, na kaddukash karou, aur pao paanch gunah mazboot baal’ (Don’t peel, don’t cut, don’t grate, and get five times stronger hair),” explains Akhtar. The variant’s USP is in fact ‘paanch gunah mazboot baal, pyaz ke saath’ (five times stronger hair, with onions), and Akhtar holds that this is a very strong USP because they are not only giving the benefit of strength – they are giving the reason behind it and are “quantifying” the benefit as well. 

One of the main hurdles the team faced was the strong, pungent smell of onions. They conducted research to determine consumers’ preferences on this subject and while some people said that retaining the smell of onions would lend credibility to the shampoo, the majority felt that the smell is usually a deterrent in their usage of onions. In the end, the team decided that since shampoos usually have pleasant fragrances, a shampoo containing onions in it would not be any different. 

The target audience for this variant comprises mothers who prioritise their children’s haircare. Specifically, through their communications, the team targeted women who already believed in the benefits of natural remedies – and onions in particular. Their goal was to convert this audience by offering a more convenient alternative to the tedious process of extracting onion water.

According to Statista, the haircare market in Pakistan is valued at $1.14 billion and its growth is projected to decline from 2.7% this year to a mere 1.3% over the next five years. Despite this, Zaheer says the market response to the Naturally Strong onion shampoo has been very favourable and that within two months of launch, the new variant has become Lifebuoy Shampoo’s second most popular variant, surpassing all but one of their five variants. Akhtar adds that the onion variant has performed particularly well on e-commerce platforms – the variant sold out on Daraz in just two weeks.

According to Zaheer, Lifebuoy was the first brand to introduce the trend of including natural ingredients in their shampoos in the Pakistani haircare market, starting with aloe vera and continuing with the new onion variant. Zaheer says that with an approximate 35% market share, Lifebuoy Shampoo leads Pakistan’s haircare market, with the brand consistently outperforming other established brands like Unilever’s Sunsilk and P&G’s Pantene. “Recent entrants like Palmolive Shampoo and Golden Pearl Shampoo are our nearest competition, but in fact, we largely don’t face any major competition from other brands in our segment,” adds Zaheer. 

The new onion variant is available across Pakistan, with the 90 ml bottle available for Rs 150, the 175 ml for Rs 340, and the 370 ml for Rs 599. These price points are similar to that of Golden Pearl, but less expensive than shampoos such as Sunsilk, Pantene and Palmolive (their primary competitors). The team also ensured that the Naturally Strong onion variant is available on e-commerce platforms like Daraz, PandaMart and Krave Mart, “despite the prevalent notion that e-commerce platforms are only for premium brands and affluent audiences,” says Akhtar. 

Currently, the team is observing a ‘three-time repeat rate’ within a month for the onion variant alone. “This means that a consumer who purchased the product returned to buy it twice within a month after the initial purchase.” He adds that people on digital media have been commenting that they already see their hair becoming thicker after initial usage.

The campaign for the launch of the Naturally Strong onion shampoo was promoted through TV, print, OOH and digital, and mainly handled by Grey, along with media agency Mindshare, digital with Viral Edge, and PR agency Talking Point. It featured actor, Sunita Marshall, in the role of a mother wanting to strengthen her young daughter’s hair with the benefits of onions, but without any hassle or the smell of onions. 

The rationale behind choosing Marshall, says Akhtar, was because they wanted to use someone relatable, like a mother figure who could connect to audiences, rather than a glamorous supermodel. Marshall, known for her maternal roles and the positive vibes garnered from her recent work in the successful drama Baby Baji resonated with Lifebuoy Shampoo’s audience and was therefore an overall ideal choice for the brand.

Previous Lifebuoy Shampoo commercials centred on female empowerment, building storylines around young girls and their mothers – with strong hair representing powerful women (Kaam karengey baray baray; beti parhao, mazboot banao). According to Zaheer, the effort to market the onion variety proceeded in the same vein, but this time the messaging was subliminal. The context, communication structure, and tone were similar to previous Lifebuoy Shampoo campaigns, and projected a conversation between a mother and her daughter. “However, we stressed the product’s effectiveness as we wanted to deliver two important messages; it contains onions and it makes your hair stronger and thicker.”

The creative brief was “how an unattractive and malodorous ingredient like onions could be made interesting, fun, and exciting,” Akhtar says. They decided to focus on the core values of their product rather than “fluff” and “gimmicks.” Consequently, the tagline that was used was ‘Na cheelou, na kaato, na kaddukash karou, pao paanch gunah mazboot baal, pyaz ke saath.’

When asked about Lifebuoy Shampoo’s future plans, Zaheer does not go into too much detail, stating that the brand team is looking forward to “building on Lifebuoy Shampoo’s current momentum.” It appears that Lifebuoy Shampoo is keeping up with the growing trend among Pakistani consumers using natural ingredients in their beauty and personal care regimes.