● The Beginning
● The Nirma Marketing Strategy
● Evolution of the Nirma Ad Over the Years
● 5 Things to Learn from Nirma’s Ad Campaign
The Nirma ad is a saga that sailed through three decades in various forms, always keeping up with the times.
Nirma is a well-established brand today, and all it took was a single jingle for Nirma washing powder to become a household name. The Nirma advertisements were so engaging that almost everyone watching the ad spot on TV never failed to sit through it, and most found themselves singing or humming a few times on a regular day.
Such was the power of the Nirma washing powder ad that advertising gurus were stunned by its reach and impact.
Back in the 1970s, the detergent powder market was monopolized by Surf, manufactured by the FMCG giant, Hindustan Lever Limited. Enter Nirma washing powder, and everything changed. The Nirma ad jingle started with a distinct “boing,” which continued for decades without any changes.
The Nirma advertisement turned the tables, thanks to the detergent powder developed by a former lab assistant Karsanbhai Patel, the founder of Nirma washing powder.
Patel used his knowledge of chemicals to formulate a washing powder that was good at cleaning dirt without being harsh on the hands. More importantly, it was available at less than a quarter the price of the leading brand Surf.
Until then, although people were willing to pay a higher price for their detergent powder, the launch of Nirma washing powder changed everything, despite the packaging being basic. With people fawning over Nirma washing powder, Patel started sourcing machinery to expand his manufacturing activities.
Although Patel focused on the quality of his product, he knew that unless he offered Nirma washing powder at an attractive price, no one would be interested in buying his product.
Hence, he devised a master plan and offered his washing powder at Rs.3.5 per kg, as against Rs.13, which was Surf’s price. Even though the packaging was basic, Nirma made its mark shortly after hitting the market. The transparent plastic packet and the image of a little girl on the cover left a lasting impression on the people that remained for over 40 years.
Nirma is a vast conglomerate today, employing over 15,000 people directly and indirectly. With a turnover of Rs. 3,500 crores, it is one of the country’s significant players in the detergent category. During its heyday, Nirma had to overcome the stiff competition offered by brands like Surf, Tide, Wheel Active, Ariel, and Henko.
Nirma could grow from a one-person, one-room company to such a massive corporation because of its founder Patel’s sheer grit and determination. Nirma used the strategy of targeting the majority of the people who fell in the middle and lower class.
Its strategy was to penetrate deep and spread far into the countryside, covering every household. The theory was simple, every home, small or big, needs a quality detergent powder at affordable costs. Once it established its brand countrywide, the company started focusing on manufacturing high-quality products to cater to the upper class.
Today, Nirma’s marketing strategy is a mix and match of high-quality and general products that cater to all sections of society.
The brand enjoys strong brand equity and has cut a niche in the highly competitive market with some MNCs as the primary players. Being a lab technician used to handling chemicals, the founder ensured that his products were phosphate-free, making them skin-friendly. The company’s success with Nirma washing powder prompted it to introduce detergent cakes, which had a massive market in rural India.
Through its 30-year journey, we have witnessed how aggressive Nirma’s marketing strategy is. The Nirma advertisements appear on TV, digital, and print media regularly. Today, the company is promoting its products on social media vigorously.
Nirma focuses on covering not just the millennials but the generation Z or Gen Z. The strategy is inclusive and has men who do not consider it demeaning to undertake washing and cleaning chores at home.
Let’s take a look at its evolution.
As mentioned earlier, the 70s and 80s were the decades when only high-quality detergent brands like Surf and Tide dominated the market. That is when Patel tied up with a leading advertising agency to create an engaging Nirma ad known as “Sabki Pasand.”
The Nirma ad focused on the excellent quality of its detergent powder, which was a boon to Indian households who were spending a fortune on the only few expensive brands of detergent powder available in the market. Nirma’s mission was to supply quality products at a great value.
Patel’s strategy involved roping in cine stars, and one of the first Nirma ads featured the then-popular Bollywood actress, Sangeeta Bijlani, who wasn’t a star yet, but a budding actress with a lot of promise.
The first Nirma advertisement was not visual but was broadcast on All India Radio at the beginning of 1975 and was adapted to television in 1982. Surprisingly, the “Sabki Pasand Nirma” ad was an unusually long ad film, unlike other TV spot ads that ran for a few seconds.
The specialty of the Nirma ad jingle was that the same tune was tweaked by adding different actresses and scenarios to keep up with the times. The company continued the tie-up with the local advertising agency for over 30 years, and the focus was always on the value-for-money factor.
Then and even now, people believe that a detergent with more lather cleans better. Nirma capitalized on this assumption and ensured that its washing powder produced enough suds to convince the Indian households of the high quality of its detergent powder.
The focus was also on the comparatively low prices, which made the budget-conscious women a happy lot. Nirma balanced quality and affordability brilliantly and ensured that its customers got what they wanted.
The initial Nirma ad appeared in black-and-white and was aired on Doordarshan in serials aired during primetime. The ads were always women-centric and glorified women who bore the brunt of cleaning and washing chores in Indian households.
When color TVs appeared on the scene, the Nirma ad was filmed in color, though the theme song remained the same.
The marketing team at Nirma realized that there was a vast untapped market for bathing soaps, which was still in the unorganized sector. While maintaining its washing powder as its flagship, Nirma shifted its strategy slightly to include Soundarya Sabun Nirma, its luxury bathing soap, which targeted women as its primary customers.
The company targeted the rung below the upper class, bringing Sonali Bendre to star in its commercials promoting Nirma beauty soap. Famous playback singers Hariharan and Kavitha Krishnamurthy sang the song in the commercial.
Kailash Surendranath was the creator of this successful commercial, and eventually, Nirma Beauty Soap captured 15% of the market in this segment and already had a 30% share in the detergent market. Nirma was going places.
When Nirma thought its brand was firmly entrenched, it witnessed some upheavals in the market conditions. Customer sentiments started changing, and new entrants were a cause for concern.
Nirma decided to up the ante and signed on with an ad company that was assigned the task of creating two Nirma advertisement films, “Underwater” and “Projector.” With the Nirma signature tune playing in the background, the film showed underwater ballet dancers doing their act.
The dancers wore white clothes, and the caption ran “Super Nirma Se Miley Super Safedi,” meaning “Super white was attained by using Super Nirma.”
Eventually, by establishing itself over the past three decades, Nirma became a Rs. 17 billion company.
In 2015 Nirma decided to shift from its ads focusing on homemakers and brought in a new concept. The new brand slogan was Jo Chahiye, Wo Chahiye, which portrayed women in their new avatar, as daredevils who did not shy from hard work as they were no longer timid. The concept was developed by a leading local advertising agency, though another media house managed all the digital aspects.
Nirma added another commercial in 2016 for its Nirma Advance. It was a male-centric ad, and Nirma roped in Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan, the heartthrob of millions of girls countrywide. The idea was to remove the stigma that washing and cleaning were chores men shouldn’t take up.
The ad portrayed that men doing laundry was the in thing. After four years, the company revived the theme and brought in another Bollywood star, Akshay Kumar as its brand ambassador, promoting Nirma Advance. The ad ran into rough weather for portraying the brave Maratha warriors of the 15th century in a demeaning manner. Nirma had to remove the ad to make up for the hurt sentiments of the people.
Nirma is a classic example of one man’s grit and determination to succeed. Starting small is OK, but it is crucial to think big and scale your business according to the market conditions. Also, it is critical to understand the business you plan to get into.
Karsanbhai Patel was a lab assistant who knew how chemicals worked, used it to his advantage, and grew his business exponentially.
Nirma believed in penetrating deep into the market to reach the masses scattered countrywide. Nirma knew that detergent powder and cake were used throughout the country, and people of all social classes needed detergent to wash their clothes. Using this simple formula, Nirma could reach the rural folks to sell their products.
Nirma’s success story makes it clear that it is easy to reach your target audience with a proper advertising strategy in place. More importantly, every Nirma ad used cine stars and celebrities in their own right. They targeted primetime slots on TV and paid considerable sums to get small slots between popular commercials to reach the maximum number of people.
Initially, the Nirma ad was women-centric, which was suitable when the company started the business. During the 70s and 80s, most women were homemakers, and very few were career-minded. Hence, the earlier strategy was correct and paid off well.
However, changing with the times, they moved from being women-centric and added men to remove the stigma prevailing in the country that washing and cleaning were demeaning chores men should not undertake. This approach revolutionized the way men thought and helped them change their perspectives.
One of the best lessons to learn from the Nirma saga is that you should never be intimidated by your competitors’ size and be ready to take them head-on.
The above-mentioned points prove that starting small but thinking big can work out in your favor, provided you adopt the right marketing strategy. Offering a high-quality product at low-cost works without fail, but adopting such a strategy involves penetrating deep into the market to achieve the optimum volumes in sales.
The famous jingle in the Nirma ad, “Washing powder Nirma,” caught the audience’s attention across the country way back in 1980. Today, the Nirma ad features Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar and has created a sensation among people.
Nirma believes in backward integration as it helps cut costs and maintain a uniform quality throughout the manufacturing process. Nirma washing powder, being its flagship brand, focuses more on improving quality through Nirma advertisement to reach the people countrywide. Nirma is endeavoring to regain the number two position it held in 2004.
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