Monday, July 28, 2008

Hair raising issues

A sachet of Head and Shoulders which I purchased a couple of weeks back threw me a pleasant surprise.On the cover was written the brand name in three local Indian languages, Hindi, Tamizh and another language which I couldn't quite decipher. Of course being a Tamilian it gave me some sense of satisfaction that fellow citizens of my state were such an important customer base for a hygiene related product. Maybe the next time I sit in a local bus, I don't have to worry about how many sweaty heads before me polluted the seat with the latest lice varieties.

However this smug satisfaction was to be short lived, and instead a totally different line of thought set in when I bought the same company's shampoo bottle instead. The first thing I did after I set my eyes on the bottle was of course to check whether the bottle also had writing in the Indian languages. On the contrary , this one had used just one language, English. Did this mean that the shampoo bottle and the shampoo sachet are intended for a totally different customer base? Was it possible that the shampoo bottles were more used by the middle and upper middle classes who were expected to know English, while the sachets were primarily used by people from the lower strata of the economy. If so, it presents a rather interesting insight into the spending patterns of our society.

As we go up the income classes we find that people prefer to spend more in bulk, while in the lower levels people would prefer to buy short term even though if they were to buy the bottle they would only benefit in the long run. Is it got to do with something as complex as the mind set that your growing up environment develops in you, or does it come down to something more basic as the amount of cash people have in hand at any given point of time. Also, given that there is a section of people who buy only sachets and not bottles, do they buy them often and therefore at the end of the day their frequency of washing their hair is comparable with those who buy bottles. If that were to be the case, the country's upper classes would have to give up their self righteous claims of being more hygiene conscious just because of their placing in the society.

However one thing which puzzles me is that why would the company not use the local languages even on their bottles. For one I am sure that doing so will help them to connect better with their Indian customers, however few they might be in comparison to the sachet users. For if there is one thing that companies have learnt over a long period of time in history, it is that the more you appeal to the local populace, the more your chances of success.


«charlie|thotti» said...

Reverse engineering.. I too love it but it has little value..

Maybe the middle class are offended by the local language displays.

Kolor said...

@ charlie

ya i agree with him... it makes marketing sense for HnS bottles to be in english. it loses its cool qoutient otherwise. shampoos like a lot of other consumer products play sa major role in defining who you are...

disclaimer: i do not judge, i do not opinionate. i just blog.

Srikanth said...

Dei, you know you have this special ability to churn out headlines out of nothing ;)

There may be a number of other reasons too...

1. People who travel to diff. states prefer satchets... Then it is good to have multiple languages.

2. May be the company manufactures different sets of bottles for different regions

3. Sachets are easier to pack and hence diffuse to rural areas faster... Hence the local languages

4. Just for the heck of it... May be to have a different style...

5. They could not think of the impact of this as you did.

6. They forgot

Anyway, it is always a nice read when THE Buddha writes :)

Hariharan Sriram said...


my reading of the Indian middle class would make think that they would only be pleased if they find their language in such a product. Example being yours truly. :)


your disclaimer has put me in a fix as to whether to debate on your comment or not. ;)


thank you for the carefully worded compliments :) . Point 3 seems a very valid argument and point 6 is a point which the Left might look at closely so as to have yet another silly potshot at MNCs. lol.

Satheesh Alagappan said...

u should check out the bottles for chik shampoo and velvette shampoo :) ...
N yeah H n S is an international brand, im quite surprised they have a tamil translation, and dont their bottles have stuff written in malaysian(also) ?..I'm at least happy the malaysian lower classes have clean hair ... or is it that even the higher classes don't understand english.
K, before this itself becomes a blog post.. nice analysis thale!

a fan said...

Amazing post topic! It forced me to visit your blog and read this post :)

I think sachet packaging is mainly targeted to increase the market base of the product, with a main focus towards rural areas. Also if you really notice, nowadays, sachets aren't sold in many big general stores in city limits and never in any departmental stores(as shelf sizes are priced here).
Hence, it makes sense to have brand name in local languages so that it'll be a big attraction among rural spenders.

Here is one good link.

Infact, when i was studying in RECT (NITT), myself and my friend always used to buy only shampoo sachets :) Because at that time, as it's mentioned in the link, a sachet provided more value for money than a bottle. Infact, i used to be very surprised at that time, as Shampoo product used to be the only one where small quantity(sachet) used to cost cheaper than a big bottle.

I don't know whether this cost difference exists now though...

Hariharan Sriram said...

@ a fan

thanks. :)

I agree with you that its nowadays intended more for the rural market. And the cost advantage is maybe because of the difference in the packaging material used.