The Foggy meaning of ‘perfume ka top-up’

The new Fogg ads that sell ‘Perfume ka top-up’ offers an interesting case study in positioning.

There is no doubt that Fogg shook up the deo/perfume market in India with a value-based positioning of ‘no gas perfumes’. It was the equivalent of selling potato chips in a packet that claims, ‘Not filled with air, only potato chips’. It was clever and insightful enough to be perceived as unbeatable value by value-conscious Indian users. No wonder every Indian brand of deo and perfume is using this plank now.

But, like how shampoos were offered in sachets, and hence, a lower entry point as far as pricing is concerned by Cavinkare many years ago and revolutionized the shampoo category, I believe it was ITC’s Engage ON that first introduced pocket-sized sprays on a really large scale, with mass-market advertising and showcasing the lesser price points of the Rs.50-75 range.

Consider, for context, this 2016 article in Popxo: 10 Pocket Perfumes You Can Carry With You – Smell Fresh All Day! Note the complete absence of any mass-market brand of mini perfumes or deos.

And consider this news announcement by ITC, on April 22, 2017: ITC’s Engage Launches Engage ON pocket perfumes

Now, almost every brand has a pocket-sized variant, including AXE Ticket, from HUL.

The interesting point to note is that brands like Nivea and Dove have always had pocket-sized roll-on deos (and Cinthol had the unique deo-sticks that looked very different – I had written about it here: ) for a long time. But, in terms of perception, we seem to consider ‘sprays’ as being more effective and ‘perfume’ish. Plus, roll-ons are meant for specific parts of the body like under-arm, while sprays can be used in more than one place in the body, offering versatility in usage.

So, it looks like Fogg was caught off-guard in a market it helped expand considerably with the no-gas positioning. So, now you have Fogg too playing the size game.

Now, what’s worth looking at all these mini-fragrances is how they position themselves for the need. The point is, the larger packs of the same brands promise things like ‘long-lasting fragrance’ and ’24-hour fragrance’! So, the smaller packs could be construed as a product from the brand which has a larger pack that perhaps doesn’t last all that long (necessitating the need to carry the smaller version too!) 🙂

AXE Ticket uses, ‘Stay ready’ as the selling point. The specific context is, you never know when you may need the burst of fragrance and having something pocket size would help.

Set Wet’s Blast range doesn’t bother much. Just offers the value-based positioning of ‘month-long perfume at Rs.49’.

ITC’s Engage, given the fact that they have both men and women variants, always have attraction as a 2-way street, unlike AXE’s persistent focus on the man needing to impress woman angle. ITC Engage On, the pocket variant, has the communication focused on both genders – they need to mutually attract each other, and doesn’t have any positioning specifically for the small size besides calling out the price point as an advantage.

ITC has also gone on to introduce 2-in-1 mini packs, after Emami did it first, with their brand called HE! That’s 2 different fragrances (they sell it as day and night) in the same pocket pack. I fully expect many other brands to go the 2-in-1 route very soon.

The latest one in the list is Fogg that calls the mini version as ‘Mobile Pack’. As if extending the ‘mobile’ analogy, the ad also uses another mobile-centric word: ‘top-up’. This positioning is particularly interesting because you top-up only when something reduces/exhausts in quantity!

Consider what a ‘top-up’ is. Usually used in context to liquids (Coke, offered in Taco Bell, for instance) or with mobile phones: ‘the act of putting more drink into someone’s glass or cup’ or ‘an extra amount of something, especially money, that is added to an existing amount to create the total you need’ (via Cambridge Dictionary). The basic crux is, you top-up something of a similar nature when the quantity of that thing reduces.

No other mini-perfume brands talk explicitly of anything being reduced and instead they focus on the immediacy/urgency of need. Fogg’s ad script focuses on the anytime-angle too, but the key selling point is ‘perfume ka top-up’.

A digression:

Consider the absurdity of the situation. Of all the things a teacher could tell a student who dashes into her, she chooses to offer her opinion about his body odour. Imagine the amount of stench the student is in that she doesn’t admonish him for being an absent-minded klutz! Instead, she nicely and suggestively uses a famous Kishore Kumar song (from Manmauji, 1962, with music by Madan Mohan) that was usurped by Neeraj Sridhar of Bombay Vikings with different words, ‘Kya Soorat Hai’ in 1999.

Digression ends.

Perfume ka top-up implies the original perfume used has exhausted its utility value in the day, after the (possibly) morning spray. If the student (in the ad) had used Fogg’s bigger pack (given it IS the number one selling brand in India), then it both helps and damages the brand.
Helps, because they get to sell both sized variants.
Damages, because it seems to imply that the larger pack offers limited run in terms of staying power.

If the student used some other deo/perfume in the morning, it makes sense for Fogg to piggyback on that brand’s lack of staying power. But the ad is silent about the perfume that let the student down so badly. It’s understandable though; if they explicitly add that part (For example, to the tune of, “Don’t be let down by other perfume’s lack of staying power… use Fogg mobile pack to top-up on confidence!”), that begs the question, “What, people aren’t using No.1 selling product even after being so successful?”.

For context, the 6 fragrances offered in the mobile pack (Amaze, Charm, Solace, Nice, Happy, Relish) are also available in larger packs, from Fogg. So, it makes sense to assume that the student who sprayed himself with ‘Happy’ in the morning, could use the Happy Mobile Pack in the evening for a top-up!

Fogg can’t say anything about the earlier perfume that let the student down, hence and simply chooses to focus on the top-up. But, as I mentioned earlier, top-up means something has exhausted in supply over time, even as every single brand advertise ‘long-lasting fragrance’ as a USP, including Fogg.

If nobody is thinking on those lines, good for Fogg. But it was Fogg that put the very thought of gas-filled perfume sprays in people’s mind when nobody was thinking about gas in perfumes at all, and rode the wave of success because of that lateral-thinking. So you never know what people are sharing on Whatsapp about ‘perfume ka top-up’ 🙂



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