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A screengrab of Brinton Pharma's Neobar soap campaign
A screengrab of Brinton Pharma's Neobar soap campaign

Ad wars: Neobar soap brand joins HUL-Sebamed pH battle in new campaign

  • The company's #NoPHightingPlease campaign featuring young children underlines that it is not the pH levels alone that matter in a soap but also its ability to moisturize the skin.

Leveraging the buzz created by the ongoing optimum pH value battle between Sebamed India and Hindustan Unilever (HUL), little known Pune based pharma firm Brinton has launched a new ad campaign for its Neobar moisturizing soap on digital platforms. The company's #NoPHightingPlease campaign featuring young children underlines that it is not the pH levels alone that matter in a soap but also its ability to moisturize the skin which Neobar achieves through ingredients such as shea butter, almond and olive oil etc.

“We wanted to bring out the aspects that really matter while deciding on a soap. Our objective isn’t really to bring anyone down but to help the end consumer make a much more informed decision. I guess at the end of the day the consumer does see through marketing gimmicks and what’s for real," said Rahul Darda, chairman & managing director, Brinton Pharmaceuticals.

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The campaign builds on the Sebamed ad which compared pH levels of HULs’ beauty soap brands namely Dove and Lux to detergent brand Rin after which it was dragged to court by HUL. The German firm has been asked to drop the comparison with Rin bar but allowed to name Dove and Lux brands in its ads by Bombay HC.

Meanwhile, HUL recently launched a campaign for the beauty soap brand Lux continuing to ride on celebrity advertising. The ad features actor Kareena Kapoor Khan emphasising on Lux for glowing skin.

Both HUL and Sebamed declined to comment on Neobar's campaign.

Advertising and marketing executives said Neobar's campaign was more like an attempt to ride on the noise created by the two warring brands which may create brand awareness for it in the short‐term but it is unlikely to move sales and market share metrics.

Neobar's attempt lacks the research and medical credentials of Sebamed (that has a 50+ year track record of using science to formulate products) or the media budget of HUL, said Karthik Srinivasan, a communications strategy consultant.

"..the brand campaign seems to be merely piggybacking on selectively using both Sebamed's and HUL's arguments and pull a fast one simply because people are talking about the brand rivalry and about pH that Sebamed kickstarted all over again. The attempt looks childish too, besides literally using children to make the point," he said.

Noting that HUL dominates body soaps category in India with 40% market share, Abneesh Roy, executive vice president (research) at Edelweiss Securities said that the company has extensive physical retail distribution with dominance extending on e‐commerce sites and modern trade.

"..we don’t expect new players to make much headway in the soaps category given the high loyalty quotient in personal care apart from high entry barriers of distribution and ad budgets. While such advertising may create awareness about new brands but distribution, pricing and relevant claims are most important parameters for cornering long-term market share in this category," said Roy.

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