How Santoor trumped the art of launching brand extensions

There are few examples of brand extensions that have actually grown the market share of the brand in any given category. 

Recounting a tale from Sudhir Sitapati’s ‘The CEO Factory’: When Lux International was launched at a price higher than Lux, Lux consumers felt that their good old Lux was no longer the best beauty soap on Earth. At the same time, Lux consumers felt that they were paying a premium for ultimately what was just Lux. Before these contradictions could hurt the brand from either side, Lux International was replaced by Dove, a Unilever brand. 

The author shares this anecdote as he makes a compelling case for why brand extensions are not always a good idea. He surmises “if you are lucky your extension will fail, but if you are unlucky, it may succeed and destroy the mothership”. 

Santoor recently launched their RoseGlo variant, which is being offered at a more premium price range as compared to their Sandal and Turmeric soap variant. Earlier, they had launched their Santoor Gold soap, another premium variant to meet the market demands. 

Santoor’s strategy at growing its market share is working. It became the 2nd biggest soap brand by volume in India, according to a research by Kantar, landing a spot between Lifebuoy and Lux, both of which are Hindustan Unilever brands. 

As an advertiser, Wipro Consumer Care & Lighting, the company that manufactures and distributes ‘Santoor’, is one of the leading FMCG advertisers on television. In fact, BARC data for Week 1 in 2020 shows that Santoor Sandal and Turmeric emerged as the most advertised brand on television. 

Santoor has also built its brand equity on the promise of ‘younger looking skin’ and its iconic ‘Santoor Mom’ ad that is a three-decade classic. While the brand is national in character, its go-to-market strategy has been to target regional audiences by leveraging local superstars and reiterating its iconic positioning. Whether it is a Mahesh Babu or Saif Ali Khan (both brand ambassadors for Santoor), the positioning of the brand is seamless. 

Distribution reach is also one of the factors contributing to Santoor’s growth. The brand has always had a strong foothold in rural India. The new variants are targeting a high value customer through e-commerce platforms and modern trade stores. 

According to Sitapati, for a brand extension to work, it has to do three things:

  • It should not implicate the performance of the core brand
  • It should solve a real and meaningful consumer problem
  • All extensions should be built from the fundamental associations of the brand.

The positioning of the RoseGlo variant is to bring that pink glow in your skin, which is a coveted beauty standard. Santoor Gold also had a clear-cut positioning, that is, to protect one’s skin from pollution. Its aloe vera variant removes oily-ness from the face. 




In their creative campaigns, the brand consistently evokes associations with ingredients that are traditionally associated with beauty in Indian households, such as sandalwood, kesar, turmeric, rosewater, aloe vera, almond and milk. 

Sitapati mentions in the book, “There is a tendency in all of us to do more rather than to do better. More rarely works.” 

Somewhere in the brand journey of ’Santoor’, rather than chase the title of a pan-Indian soap brand, the marketers in charge decided to narrow their focus on South and West markets. Instead of being omnipresent, the brand focused on its regional markets and built a stronger footing. 

CEO of Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting, Vineet Agarwal in a Forbes article, mentions that in the early 90s, North and East India made up for only 10 per cent of their sales. “We decided to lose the 10 per cent and make the most of the 90 per cent in the South and West.” 

It should be noted that regional markets in India are as big as any single European country. Staying regional and going after No.1 position was the best decision taken by the brand. 

With the growing affluence of the population in non-metros and rising conscious of herbal ingredients, Santoor is driving premiumisation in tune with the direction the market is heading. 

Here’s what brand experts have to say: 

Ambi Parameswaran, Brand Strategist & Author: “Santoor is the second largest soap brand in India and it is bigger than Lux. In terms of pricing, it may be cheaper than Dove or Pears, but it is much more expensive than Lifebuoy or Godrej No1. So, it is no longer a popular brand meant for the middle classes. The brand has made efforts to move up the price table in the past with Sandal version and transparent Glycerin version. They have also launched face wash, body wash and body gel. The new launch is a logical extension of the premiumisation strategy. If rose is seen as a premium skin care ingredient, then they will get good traction. Even otherwise, the premium versions often help your regular version consumers to feel better about their brand.” 

Jagdeep Kapoor, Founder Chairman, and Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants: “Santoor is not only a popular brand, but also a credible brand with a very distinct positioning and communication, which is memorable and appealing. On that basis, it is possible to launch a premium brand, as long as there is a sub-brand bringing out the premium-ness. The sub-brand Santoor RoseGlo brings out the goodness of rose water. Thus, it could be a smooth transition if the distribution displays and the media and creative communication are handled deftly, without Santoor and RoseGlo, stepping on each other’s toes. I believe it is possible if the brand strategy is crafted well. The desired response from the consumer would be the popular brand continuing to be called Santoor, and the premium brand being called by the consumer as RoseGlo, knowing that it is Santoor RoseGlo, with the credibility of Santoor family. I think ‘Santoor’ will now get more ‘Noor’.” 

Harish Bijoor, Brand-Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults: “Santoor is a brand of mass appeal. When you decide to take a mass-appeal mother brand name to prefix to a new Premium brand offering, you do two things. One, you vest it with instant recognition of pedigree. Two, you limit its adoption by complete newbies in the premium market, as the mass image is a deterrent in itself. To that extent you take two steps forward and take one and a half step backwards. Ideally, a whole new brand name for a whole new premium offering is a way to go in FMCG. Few have the patience for that long-term brand-build approach.”


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