MUMBAI: Hindustan Unilever is using its detergent brands to initiate “serious conversations” with consumers on subjects ranging from the financial empowerment of women to the fear of failure, a leading executive has said.

“Big brands have the opportunity to create and lead conversations,” according to Priya Nair, executive director (Home Care) at Hindustan Unilever, who explained that detergents are often the first general-purpose cleaning product to enter a home.

“Detergents are used for cleaning floors, bathrooms, the kitchen and sinks,” she told Mint. “Its use goes beyond clothes, especially when you look at the bottom-of-the-pyramid consumers.”

Getting such consumers to use more specialist products has become part of Hindustan Unilever’s marketing aims – and that has necessitated a greater understanding of their lives.

Its Rin brand, for example, is at a price premium for the low-income consumer, but the development of smart foam technology – which uses half the amount of water while also halving the effort required for rinsing clothes – addresses particular needs in areas facing water shortages.

And the latest campaign for its Wheel brand has been built on the insight that women in rural homes want to partner in adding financial income for their home but are often held back due to regressive thinking.

“The idea is that a brand like Wheel, which reaches millions of rural women, can make a huge difference in changing a conversation that is so important in this country – financial empowerment of women – and so we are putting the message not just on television, but even on the packaging,” said Nair.

Elsewhere, the long-running ‘Dirt is Good’ campaign for Surf has found a new angle in the pressure parents place on children to do well in exams.

“In an achievement-oriented society such as ours, failure is seen as a taboo,” Nair said. “ In the #HaarKoHarao campaign, we have highlighted that one should not fear failure, but learn from it” – hence the message that “if the stains are used to defeat defeat then the stains are good”.

Globally, Unilever has been at the forefront of promoting social and environmental initiatives since it launched its Sustainable Living Plan back in 2010.

“There is empirical data to show that brands positioned on sustainable living grow faster than those that are not,” Nair pointed out. “So, it drives sales and business.”

Sourced from Mint; additional content by WARC staff