The advertisement war between Reckitt Benckiser and Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) continues unabated. After Reckitt had compared its Dettol Kitchen Cleaning Gel with HUL’s Vim a month ago, HUL said last week Lifebuoy gave better germ protection than Dettol’s antiseptic liquid.
Recently, Reckitt Benckiser (RB) hit back with a front-page advertisement in The Times of India, saying its disinfectant now had a new fresh fragrance and could be used for multiple purposes.
“By timing the launch of the new product now, RB has attempted to respond to HUL’s charge that Lifebuoy has better germ protection than Dettol,” said Harish Bijoor, chief executive, Harish Bijoor Consults.
Chander Mohan Sethi, RB’s senior vice-president (Southeast Asia), said, “Dettol is a power brand and has stood for trusted protection from germs. We provide innovative ways to deliver this purpose in our drive to grow and reach more consumers. The new Dettol disinfectant is a step in that direction - helping consumers achieve both personal and household hygiene.”
HUL was not immediately available for its comments.
Experts say HUL is likely to respond soon. While there have been instances of long-drawn advertisement wars (such as that between HUL’s Rin and Procter & Gamble’s Tide three years ago), this is possibly one of the fiercest ones in recent times.
Last month, HUL had filed a case in the Kolkata High Court against RB’s advertisement for Dettol Kitchen Cleaning Gel. The court had directed RB to modify the ad. At the same time, HUL also brought out a print ad that asked, “A harsh antiseptic or the power of 100 lemons?”
Ad industry sources say HUL has been looking to appropriate the germ-kill space occupied by Dettol for some time. And, it has tried this primarily through Lifebuoy, as
consumers seek the attribute of germ protection for brands on the health platform.
Lifebuoy accounts for 14-15 per cent of the Rs 3,000-crore (Rs 30 billion) health soaps market, while Dettol has a share of 8.2 per cent.
Experts say driven by brands such as Dettol (which records about 20-25 per cent growth a year), the health soaps segment is recording higher growth than the beauty soaps segment. After Dettol successfully managed to extend the germ-kill proposition from soaps to hand wash and hand sanitizers, Lifebuoy followed suit.