There seem to be two versions of Hindustan Unilever. One version encourages women to be comfortable in their own skin, with the real beauty messaging from Dove. The same version, even welcomes bonding with transgenders over a cuppa or a chai pe charcha with prostitutes having Brooke Bond Red Label tea.
But there is another version, where the warmth exuded by the first version, gives way to some cold vibes. Last week, when one spotted an ice-cream ad for Kwality Walls that seemed to reinforce age-old gender stereotypes, it led some to wonder aloud if the ad was released in 2017, or 1720. And made some wonder if it was actually from the same company that made the earlier ads. In another ad for the same brand, released around February this year, the brand had even used roadside slang that’s used to objectify women in the script.
One would presume that the consumer goods giant caters to women customers who not only buy the company’s range of skin care and beverages, but also consume its ice-cream. So, could the company be caught napping in this manner, as if a thorough gentleman in daylight had morphed into a different animal in the dark? Or did someone mistakenly think that the brownie points earned in some categories, could give them allowance to talk dirty in other places?
The flipside of the argument could well be that in large companies, different business lines are often run as if they were separate companies. While that may be good for the bottomline, does it also lead to one hand not knowing what the other is doing?
You might be running separate business lines, but when there is a corporate brand reputation that is stamped across all packages, one has to adhere to a common language. After all, the consumer knows who they are talking to. Or for that matter, who they are listening to. That, for a smart marketing machine like HUL, should have been a no-brainer.
(The writer is the managing editor at Campaign India. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)
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