Brand War: Sebamed Vs Dove, Lux, Pears – smart move or missed opportunity?

Sebamed, a German personal care brand, has launched a new campaign, wherein it names well-known soap brands such as Lux, Pears, Dove and even Rin.

Titled ‘Filmstars ki nahi, science ki suno’, the ad starts with women taking bath in a bath tub and questioning the pH level in the soap brands that are endorsed by celebrities (Pears, Dove and Lux) and comparing that with the pH level of Rin, which is used to wash clothes. They go on to emphasise that one should listen to the scientists and use Sebamed instead as its pH level is 5.5, which is just right for the skin.

This is not the first time that a brand has mentioned its competitors in its ad to showcase its superiority. Earlier, we have seen brand campaigns of Rin Vs Tide, Colgate Vs Pepsodent, Complan Vs Horlicks, Coca Cola Vs Pepsi, Apple Vs Samsung and many others who have used their competitors’ name and logo directly in their ads.

Colgate Vs Pepsodent

Complan Vs Horlicks

Tide Vs Rin

Adgully reached out to some leading ad consultants to know about whether the idea works.

“Consumers don’t understand the concept of pH, or what’s ideal for the skin. There is nothing explained in the ad, it’s only a comparison of numbers,” opined Vani Gupta Dandia, Founder, CherryPeachPlum Growth Partners, and former Marketing Director, PepsiCo. She further said, “The execution of the idea is badly done in my view. There is no logic for the girl to be sitting naked in a Turkish spa to make the point. I understand it’s a bathing soap. But the overt sensuality feels out of place to me. There is arrogance and smugness in the girl’s attitude too, which will rub off badly on the brand persona.”

As they say, negative advertisement also gets you good amount of attention. Rajesh Sikroria, founder Pontem Integrated, and ex-president BBDO, remarked, “Imagine, within two days of releasing the advertisement, we all are talking about it. Two days back, if you had asked anyone about Sebamed, chances are you would have got a hollow response, and ask around today. So, did it work? On the awareness level, full marks! What they did on traditional media has set social media on fire. Did the communication create conversations? Again, look at what you and I are doing right now. Full marks again. Can you imagine how many people would have Googled – what is the right pH for skin?”

The (beauty) soap market is already cluttered and Sebamed has managed to break through the clutter by hitting out at leading brands through its comparative advertising campaign. Anup Sharma, an independent communication consultant, was of the view, "Today, the consumers are looking for more than a product and see what the brand purpose is and also want the organisations’ narratives reflecting their values." Sharma further added, “The campaign looks to be extended with the hashtag #SachComingSoon and hope the brand will be able to communicate their values and purpose through engagement to turn the attention and the one-time purchase to a loyal consumer.” 

At the same time, Gupta Dandia felt, “This brand could have taken the high ground on educating consumers in a sensitive and genuinely concerned tone. They could have repositioned all other soaps as those that take advantage of your ignorance, those that seduce you with big celebrities and big budgets. They could do this by taking on an infomercial tonality – like the smart thinking girl’s soap. She is informed and discerning, makes deliberate and considered choices rather than following the herd. With this ad, they have actually proven they are just another one out to seduce. The execution is out of place. This was a missed opportunity for Sebamed.”

It’s definitely been noticed, both by the consumer as well as the market leader. As far as getting the conversations started, Sebamed has ticked a lot of boxes. "As a consumer who’s just seen the ad, I haven’t been told about any other FBAs (features, benefits, advantages), nor have I been deterred to use my current brand by educating me about the harms of high pH. Plus there’s a wide gap between the price ranges of the competition called out and Sebamed, so strictly speaking, even though I’ve seen the ad, I might not even be a potential customer. All these will matter once the bubbles pop. For now, they’ve definitely got the attention they intended for," concluded Deepak Krishna, ACD, Schbang Bangalore. 


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