Case Study: L’Oreal’s Promotional Strategies in Indian Cosmetics Market for Garnier

Garnier has been very active and upfront in adopting new promotional techniques to market its products. The company follows a very popular technique to advertise and market its products that is the Viral Marketing policy. Viral marketing is a term coined to define the productive ways a marketing message is made available. And corporate are using the medium to circulate brands and brand messages. The idea has caught on like a virus, as efficiently as Information Technology has entered households and businesses.

Firms are now structuring their businesses in a way that allows them to grow like a virus and lock out the existing brick and mortar competitors through innovative pricing and exploitation of competitors’ distribution channels. The beauty of this marketing technique is that none of it requires any marketing. Customers, who have caught the virus, do the selling. Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to explode the message to thousands, to millions.

Off the Internet, viral marketing has been referred to as “word-of-mouth”, “creating a buzz”, “leveraging the media” and even “network marketing.” It’s a deceptively simple concept: Create a message, send it via e-mail, and make it so compelling that recipients want to pass it on to everyone in their address book. Advertisers are hot on the tactic, and the idea of putting consumers to work spreading the word about a brand or service seems sound.

What is unique about the concept is that where brands or brand ideas are exchanged within communities, they are idea-led, not advertising-led. There are some high-profile viral success stories. Like Hotmail. By simply sending an e-mail, consumers hawked the service because every message contained a Hotmail ad that helped it grow to 12 million accounts in its first year, way back in 1996. The 1999-hit film ‘The Blair Witch Project’ also benefited from a similar contagion. On web sites and in chat rooms, the film’s promoters hinted that the fictional tale was really a documentary and let the bug run wild. In most cases, the consumers were bitten.

When Garnier launched its Fructis shampoo, they latched on to the idea. The firm had to introduce the aspect of five times stronger hair and the firm had a braid competition whereby consumers could register on a site and create a knot on the Fructis brand, as part of their entry into the contest. The knot creation was actually created (visually presented on the site) and as a next step, consumers were expected to invite their friends to visit the braid and add to their score. A record 76,000 consumers created their own knot on the braid and forwarded the link to more than 82,000 of their friends, a survey report indicated. Viral marketers practice delayed gratification. They may not profit today, or tomorrow, but if they can generate a groundswell of interest from something free, they know they will profit soon and for the rest of their lives. Since ‘Free’ happens to be the most powerful word in a marketer’s vocabulary, most viral marketing programmes have attached themselves to it. The idea is to give away valuable products or services to attract attention. And, more importantly, someone else’s resources are depleted rather than our own. Garnier has positioned itself as a lifestyle product mainly targeting teenagers and young girls. This is very evident from Garnier ads be it for Garnier fructis shampoos or for hair color. In a recent advertisement of Garnier hair color, a daughter advises her mother to try the product and thus makes an attempt to promote product among middle-aged women. Hence, expanding the base of the target segment gives a whole new market to marketers, provided they are successful in convincing the customers of the second-rung segment.

Companies need to be very strategic in presenting the product and its features to attract another segment. At the same time, companies need to be sensitive about the impact of targeting other segments on the existing target segment. It may be damaging, especially, if in a process of expanding its customer base, a premier brand is targeted at the aspiring middle-class also. In case of any signals of lowering demand with the existing target group, companies should adopt line extensions by bringing suitable changes in the products.

Advertising and marketing specialists are aiming at young, urban Indian women, who are earning their own money and are potential customers for a host of products, including name-brand clothes, cosmetics and new cars.

Increasing its ad spend for the launch of its new products, L’Oreal has been relying more on its international campaigns to make an impact in the Indian market. McCann Erickson in Mumbai handles the L’Oreal and Maybelline account while Publicis India is in charge of Garnier. “The ad accounts have been aligned according to our international affiliations with these agencies and we try to have a mix of both the Indian and international ads,” says Mr. Rajgopal.

L’Oreal India currently has three brands in its consumer products portfolio and there are product overlaps between its hair care, skin care and color cosmetics brands. Garnier, L’Oreal and Maybelline have been defined by their price segments and positioning.

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