HUL, Sustainability, Dry Shampoo and Consumer Values

Given the threat to the planet earth many companies have begun to incorporate sustainability in their vision and mission agenda. Consumers, though in small number now have begun to evaluate their consumption factoring in their effect on environment. On the other hand, many companies have begun to embed sustainability in their business strategy. Environmentally sustainable practices are no longer moral or legal ‘impositions’ rather these make good business sense.
HUL in one such company which has committed itself to sustainability and it seeks to achieve this goal by innovations. The company has undertaken many initiatives at the back end (supply chain and manufacturing) to curtail its environmental footprint. Its eco efficiency programmes are aimed to reduced energy consumption, wastage, and other resources like water. On the front end, the company is focused on developing innovative products to meet its sustainability goals.
Surf Excel Quick Wash reduces the water consumption reducing the need for rinsing clothes less number of times (usually people rinse four times that needs four buckets). Now clothes can be cleaned with only two rinses without compromising the quality of wash. Dry shampoo is another innovative idea in this direction. One approach to saving water is to urge consumers to use less water while shampooing their hair but dry shampoo completely does away with the need to use water. The product comes as a spray which absorbs oils from hair and lends volume.
An innovative product, notwithstanding its merits and technical superiority must ‘make sense’ to customers. A product is an idea codified in a physical form. The acceptability of an idea depends upon how it ‘fits’ in a larger scheme of things where it seeks to find a place. New products often create cognitive and behavioral disruptions which manifest in resistance to adoption. For instance when pressure cooking (pressure cookers) were introduced, for many consumers the idea was unacceptable. It militated against the long held belief the slow cooking produces best taste. Almost similar resistance was faced when cooking gas was introduced. Though gas offered huge advantage over stoves and coal ‘angithi’/ stove but people associated coal cooking to be the best. Even now many people are wary of microwave cooking because ‘waves’ are perceived to be harmful and ‘food cooked is not as tasty’.

HUL is also likely to face similar challenge. Shampoo is used to wash hair and washing and cleaning are intrinsically linked to water. So the idea may clash with long held value system. Theoretically dry shampoo is disruptive in nature- it disrupts the way shampoo category is thought about and also the way shampoo is used. These double disruptions are likely to obstruct acceptance of idea and later call for behavior modification. It is here marketing strategy has a role to play. It must attend to the challenge of reconciling the two discrepant ideas. The transition from double edged blades to twin was much smoother for Gillette but is slightly difficult in case of shaving creams to foam. It took long for microwave brands to make people open to the idea of wave cooking.
The battle for HUL is set in the minds of people. The oxymoronic perception requires reconciliation for this product in order to win consumer acceptance.


7 thoughts on “HUL, Sustainability, Dry Shampoo and Consumer Values

  1. Substituting the regular shampoos seems less likely in the Indian markets. I’m reminded of a case study on tea tablets for which the target were frequent travellers, bachelors etc. In this case also, travellers are the TG that may get lured for a dry shampoo. But how many? Indian mindsets are far too rigid; unlike their western counterparts.

  2. very informative, sir.
    I have not seen the communication, if it’s out. The product is gud for an occassional use when water may not be readily available ( one route to position). I also feel that the product will find acceptability thanks to tight schedules of people. I dont know if they are not going to project it as subsitiute of wet shampoos. I am sure HUL will appreciate the difference between having Clean Hair(dry shampoo, possible without water) & Clean Head( only possible with water).

  3. Hi Sir,

    Loved reading this one. Immediately got reminded me of the Ariel case study that we had discussed in our CB class. The word “detergent” immediately evokes expectations of foaming and frothing. If its a detergent, it must produce foam. The Livon example also comes to my mind. The consumers perhaps were never able to reconcile and get over “sticky” associations for Livon, perhaps because the product format appeared too close to oil.

    Its interesting how consumers can have various immediate evocations from cues such as product formats, category names, brand names etc. Shampoo and water perhaps are too deeply entrenched in consumer minds. Will be interesting to see how consumers receive this product and not see it using the regular shampoo “lens”. The challenge really for the dry shampoo would be to break the shampoo category code.



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