Nirma’s horror show

In its attempt to modernise, Nirma seems to have lost its way

There was a time when Karsanbhai Patel made the Lever buggers spend sleepless nights with his low-cost detergent powder, Nirma. In fact, it was Nirma that inspired the birth of Surf’s Lalitaji. Which then led to price wars in the category, and Lever launched its own mass brands. (At the time, Nirma’s success story was case study material in India’s B-schools.) Nirma, sadly, had no counter-strategy in place, and has since been reduced to being just another brand in a market infested with low-cost lookalikes. Failure to contemporize with changing times was the key reason.
Of late, however, makers of Nirma have gone into a solid image change-over drive. First arrived the mermaids performing an underwater ballet. No product demos, and even the famed Nirma jingle got chucked into the ocean. Funnily enough, the packaging continued to be as shoddy as ever. Clearly, this approach did nothing for the brand, and it appears that Nirma has drowned the dancing mermaids.
So now it’s back to the ‘dhoodh si safedi’ jingle. And it’s back to dealing with hard dirt. But this time, things have gone totally unreal and profoundly silly. In the new TVC, a dirty puddle is all set to unload itself on a woman, who’s passing by. Much like a feisty bahu admonishing a dirty saas, the woman orders the puddle to behave itself. And her oral whip? Nirma washing powder. And the ancient jingle. The frightened puddle freezes in its tracks. The promise? Ab daagh ki phat gayee! In not so many words.
This sort of bizarre advertising tells you only one thing: Nirma is very confused on which way to take the brand. First they tried to super modernise it overnight and that strategy tanked. Then they have tried to make it more middle classy while breaking the clutter using a horror-like commercial. Frankly, the frozen puddle reminds me of a bad special effect from a 1970 FU Ramsay flick. Yes, it’s that corny. Sad to see David finally lose the war to the mighty Goliath.

This is where I think things have gone horribly wrong for the brand: In its attempts at mad modernisation, Nirma went straight from the first to the fifth gear. And the result naturally was a disaster. And now they are trying to quickly turn back to the third gear, so their gaadi is going nowhere. They need to go back to the basics, and up the image in a slow and steady manner. First sort out the packaging, then gradually contemporise the advertising.

Funny, that we need to teach this basic stuff to a man who once shook the Lever citadel!

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