Santoor soap for hand-wash

Santoor has been using the mother-daughter template for a very, very long time.

Their latest ad doesn’t use the ‘Mummy!’ call-out in the template but tries to be topical, in context to the increased attention on hand-wash during the pandemic. But the way the ad’s narrative goes about it makes it seem shallow and a bit opportunistic (though being opportunistic is advantageous for brands, to sell more).

It’s a different thing that the first version of the ad has the mother wondering aloud if newspapers are safe even as every newspaper has been shouting hoarse from the front page every day that they are.

Probably owing to some feedback from newspapers, there is a second iteration of the ad that doesn’t have this segment.

The most awkward parts of the ad are 2 things:

1- There’s a ‘germ shield’ logo in the ad, but not on the product! It almost seems like they invented this for the ad alone. Santoor, across its bath soap range, has spoken about moisturizing and total skincare (with ingredients like sandalwood and turmeric), but not about germs.

2- They actually show the usage of the product, associated for decades with bathing, for hand-wash, even as the brand has an entire range of hand-wash products that do speak about germ protection!! To connect their bathing soap to hand-wash (even if it’s perfectly usable for hand-wash) seems like diluting (never a good word to use along with ‘soaps’) the use-case, even at the cost of their own actual product for this purpose.

As I had mentioned, this seems a tactical force-fit, which could definitely help increase sales. But I do wonder about the impact on the overall brand perception – having positioned it as a bathing product, to also extending it for hand-wash, after almost every soap maker has moved on from making that connection.

It almost seems like the hand-wash brand team does not see eye-to-eye with the soap’s brand team.

No soap maker now associates their product with hand-wash, and hand-wash, as a ritual, has completely moved to liquids. But this pandemic seems to be forcing even soap brands to make the connection. Santoor is not the only one – Dettol has been making this odd connection too, but they clearly mention ‘use any soap’, even while showing only Dettol (understandably) in the ads.

One argument on behalf of Dettol could be that their flagship soap, the one that pungently smells like ‘hospital’ is only one in a range of many soaps and since people strongly associate that smell with hospitals and hospital-like cleanliness/hygiene, that variant is a perfect fit to isolate towards hand-wash. But Santoor’s main variant is the one that sells and is shown as ‘use Santoor for hand-wash’ explicitly. This is the variant that has been positioned as bathing soap, even as the brand has launched a range of hand-wash liquids to split the 2 use-cases.

Thinking aloud, could Santoor use the ‘total skincare’ messaging to convincingly build a use case for hand-wash too? After all, we wash our hands obsessively many, many times a day these days and our hands do get drier than usual. But that’s where the problem lies, in messaging – when a bathing soap is sold as moisturizing and total skincare, the assumption is that it is used once, or at best twice a day. Not 25 times every day. Any soap used that many times a day would make the skin dry.

And that’s precisely the route Vaseline takes in its new campaign – the focus is on moisturizing the hands that get dry with repeated hand-wash!

Even Vaseline pivots from a body-care lotion to hand-care solution. They have a specific product for hand-care – ‘Healthy hands, stronger nails – with keratin’ that is shown earlier in the ad.

But when you see the actual product being used by the models in the ad, it is ‘Deep Restore body lotion’!

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