A common rule in the advertising world is that, to be successful, an advertisement must capture its target audience’s attention immediately. A potential buyer must be able to view a better and more refined version of reality and also be able to relate to the circumstances portrayed in the advertisement. For this reason, advertising agencies use new and creative methods to promote their products in previously untapped markets, ranging from men’s beauty products to products for women who don head scarves.
Recently, Pakistani firms have started catering to the more conservative segments of society. The first product implying this evolving market trend is Sunsilk’s shampoo for ‘covered hair’. Though such products have existed in other Muslim countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Egypt (introduced as Safe Hair-shampoo designed for veiled women), the Pakistani market is comparatively new but highly accepting of this new trend, according to Fareshteh Aslam — Brands and External Communications Manager Unilever Pakistan
Sunsilk launched its Lively Clean and Fresh shampoo for covered hair in Pakistan around two months ago and according to Aslam, “the product has been highly successful”. The launch of this shampoo in Ramazan proved fruitful for the brand’s image as well as the product, but Aslam explains that it was being planned for many months. “We listen to the consumer, look at the market pattern and then see how we can cater to the demands through our resources.” Aslam states that this shampoo had been in the global Sunsilk market for a quite some time and was in high demand in countries such as Indonesia. Therefore, the team thought that it was high time that Pakistani women, who cover their head, also get a fair chance to have ‘lively and fresh’ hair.
The team that planned out the whole campaign had to be mindful of Pakistani society. Besides thinking extensively about how to advertise the shampoo, they also had to keep in mind the basic ground rule for advertising, which is to “respect the lifestyle of each market”.
Sabeen Ghani of J Walter Thompson (JWT) — the advertising firm that spearheaded the entire campaign — mentions that advertisements of the same product which aired in other countries (such as Indonesia) could not be used in Pakistan due to their representation of women, which did not entirely coincide with the societal norms in Pakistan. Even though the product was the same, the audience was different in many ways. “We had to be very careful as to not offend anyone in anyway. We had the task of combining the image of the modern chic Sunsilk-girl with that of a conservative girl covering her head to strike a perfect balance,” Ghani adds. The advertisement made for Pakistani audience succeeded in highlighting a neutral image by portraying the girl in the ad as a versatile working woman who covers her head.
The product seems to be a hit in the Pakistani market. A saleswoman at Aghas Supermarket in Karachi states: “Within a short period of time, it has become one the most preferred shampoos and its demand has exceeded that of the products in direct competition.” She also mentions that women come and “specifically ask for this shampoo, not hesitating to try a new product”. Hina Sarwar, a banker who covers her head, seconded these claims. When asked whether she would prefer a shampoo designed for women who cover their head, she answers: “Why not? There’s no harm in trying something new. Besides it’s a win-win situation, if it works well then good, and if it doesn’t yield positive results, I would know not to trust that company again.”
The nationwide success of the campaign might prove to be an indicator for other firms to target this somewhat new and untapped market. However, Ghani says that she has no idea whether more products are being launched for this market or not. According to her, the Sunsilk shampoo campaign was the first of its kind in Pakistan. Now only time will tell if other corporations are planning to avail the opportunities in this niche market.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2011.