Head & Shoulders tackles India's dandruff problem

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BOMBAY -- Thirty-three years after Head & Shoulders debuted in its home market of the U.S., Procter & Gamble Co. has launched its flagship anti-dandruff shampoo in India where its Pantene Pro-V label has already become the No.3 hair wash brand since its 1995 introduction.

Through its wholly owned, Bombay-based Procter & Gamble Home Products subsidiary, the $35bn packaged goods giant promises to promote Head & Shoulders with a massive ad spend, sampling and promotion. H&S is the largest selling anti-dandruff shampoo worldwide, and is already in neighboring China, Singapore, the Philippines and Taiwan, where it leads the overall market.

"The objective is to make H&S the No.1 [shampoo] brand in India," says Vivek Bali, marketing director- beauty care at Procter & Gamble (India), a 65%-owned publicly quoted manufacturing subsidiary of its Cincinnati, Ohio, parent.

According to a P&G survey, nearly 40% of all Indians suffer from dandruff and two out of three of them are dissatisfied with the current array of anti-dandruff shampoos on sale.

"The challenge, I would say, is overcoming consumer disappointment over the years," says Shireesh M. Joshi, marketing manager for H&S at P&G Home Products. "The consumer has been receiving a lot of messages but none that worked. To some extent, getting over that perception that things didn't work the last time and so why should anti-dandruff shampoos work this time, is our main task."

The low-level of technology for dandruff cure and the high failure rate of existing brands has limited the anti-dandruff segment to a little under 8% of the $98m local shampoo market. Consequently, Indians resort to native cures and home-made remedies, both with dubious results.

Among anti-dandruff variants, Bombay-based Hindustan Lever's Clinic All Clear leads with a 5.5% value share, followed by its sister Organics brand's 1.4% and Bombay-based Colgate-Palmolive (India's) Optima at 0.3%, according to May 1997 figures by Operations Research Group-MARG, Baroda, Gujarat.

Sista Saatchi & Saatchi, Bombay, Cordiant's local affiliate in India, handles the H&S account as part of a global alignment. Joshi says P&G will undertake widescale door-to-door sampling of H&S sachets to dispel preconceived notions by encouraging consumers to experience the shampoo. Stores will be co-opted in the visibility effort through window displays, streamers and counter stickers.

The media plan includes ads in women's and general interest magazines, and the use of local and international commercials on TV. To increase credibility with viewers, one spot will feature a hair-stylist recommending H&S as a cure and prevention to a dandruff-plagued man. The other spot is a celebrity endorsement by a local long-tressed model and actress, who claims H&S cured her dandruff.

Like Pantene, H&S is priced upscale for Indian standards. A 100ml pack retails for $1.43, 200ml for $2.71 and a 6ml sachet for eight cents. The product, however, will be positioned for the mass market and Joshi is confident the high price won't be a barrier.

When Pantene launched two years ago, it was the costliest brand, he says, but focusing as a vitamin B5-enriched protection against split ends won it a 15% market share, while simultaneous launches like Lever's Organics and Colgate's Optima languish behind in lower single digits.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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