Pantene’s Mystery Shampoo & Dove: who blinked?

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On a day trip to Mumbai last week, I saw a hoarding for a Mystery Shampoo, asking people to send an SMS and guess the brand. I thought it was Vivel, by ITC. I then saw another hoarding down the road – a retort from Dove claiming there was no mystery and they were the No.1. I came to know that the original ad was from Pantene thanks to the subsequent print ads. Apparently it was more than just an outdooor & print campaign and included several activation programs. I got to know of the social media play, thanks to this great read by @beastoftraal: The Televisionization of Social Media.

Images sourced from: Brand Recall

To  me, it appears that:

(a) the teaser campaign and activation was on for a tad too long a period – just enough time for a smart competitor to seize the opportunity

(b) the social media usage of the brand, especially the obvious plugs from celebrities seems a bit amateurish & forced

(c) when you are a global brand, your ‘successes’ in other parts of the world are studied closely (a search for ‘mystery shampoo’ on Google could take you to a 2008 promotion in the US for Pantene) and counter measures anticipated by your competitor.

When I checked on Twitter, some thought that what Dove did was ‘cheap’ especially after ‘Real Women‘ and all that. But most said that Dove benefited the most. Check out ‘Why I would love to work with HUL‘ and ‘HUL’s last minute surprise foxes P&G‘.

On the social media part, I am reminded of the need for brands to have ‘newsworthiness’ of to use social media well. Yes, being chosen by over 80% of women as the best shampoo has some newsworthiness but is it powerful enough to carry on a conversation? It merely becomes an announcement on micro blogs – add celeb tweets to it and it becomes a one-way message. While shampoo is a high involvement category (I disagree with @beastoftraal on it being low involvement) will it evoke such an interest in online media so as to have sustained brand conversations? I doubt it. The brand’s Twitter timeline has evolved to provide tips, which is atleast better than forking out brand messages.

FMCG marketing, especially in categories where it is difficult to generate ‘new news’ is a tough ball game and P&G are masters of it. Their integrated efforts for brands – especially the ones in the digital space – Being Girl, Old Spice, P&G Mums (for the Winter Olympics) have been fantastic. With this one, I guess they blinked in the teaser stage and let Dove hog the mind space thereafter.

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