Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

How do you talk about sex in a country where talking about sex is taboo? We ask Reckitt's Dilen Gandhi

In conversation with Dilen Gandhi, regional marketing director, South Asia- Health & Nutrition, Reckitt (maker of Durex)

Published: Nov 21, 2022 02:48:59 PM IST
Updated: Nov 21, 2022 03:07:03 PM IST

How do you talk about sex in a country where talking about sex is taboo? We ask Reckitt's Dilen Gandhi"The Indian FMCG sector is interesting and while there is localisation of products and brands there is also a global effect coming into play," says Reckitt's Dilen Gandhi. The FMCG major owns iconic global brands like Durex and Dettol

FMCG major Reckitt sells condoms, hand washes, hair removing creams and a lot more under brands such as Durex, Dettol and Veet. Its marketing is as varied as its product portfolio. The company, which has to customize promotions according to individual markets, has been shifting its mainline media approach to include more digital heavy marketing strategies such as moment marketing, influencer marketing and social media listening.

In an exclusive conversation with Storyboard18, Dilen Gandhi, regional marketing director, South Asia- Health & Nutrition, Reckitt, talks about marketing innovations, interesting trends and how the company is promoting safe sex through innovative campaigns.

Edited excerpts.

Q. What have been the key marketing innovations or initiatives that are underway for Reckitt brands and especially Durex?

Innovation is at the heart of our business success in India as well as globally – we are continuously looking for opportunities on how we can meet consumer needs better, more completely or faster than competitors. One clear shift we’ve made is to combine our global scale with deep consumer understanding to launch “Made In India, Made For India” innovations. These range all the way from Durex Extra-Thin flavoured condoms, a one-of-its-kind innovation addressing intimacy barriers to make sex a more fulfilling experience. To the recent launch of Dettol Powder to Liquid Handwash which is an affordable and effective solution that has been extremely well received by the consumer because it’s at a very reasonable price point, to our latest launch of Dettol Antiseptic Cream which brings the protection of Dettol in a convenient format.

While product is where a large amount of innovation lies, marketing has evolved tremendously due to the rise of the internet. Even though the brand core values remain unchanged, it is now important for brands to be visible across multiple mediums. Every medium is addressing a different audience and that involves narratives to change dynamically keeping the audience in mind. Digital Marketing has changed the dynamics of marketing altogether. This has led to brands working relentlessly on getting the right content in place for the right audience and this has subsequently led to a surge in creativity and innovation making it an exciting time for marketers at large.

Q. What kind of change in consumer demand are you experiencing in India? Is it in line with your global markets?

Every market has its own dynamics, and it is important to understand the difference and work in accordance. India is a fast-growing consumer market accelerated by favourable demographics, growing urbanisation, growing participation of women in the workforce, rising disposable income and changes in discretionary spending. Other aspects driving consumer demand are increasing aspirations of the educated consumer, fashion consciousness and brand awareness. Penetration of e-commerce with instant availability enhanced during the pandemic and the growing social media influence is also playing its part. There is no doubt that we are evolving, and the underlying forces are changing rapidly. However, the world is shrinking and there are definite overlaps in consumption patterns. Currently, the Indian FMCG sector is interesting and while there is localisation of products and brands there is also a global effect coming into play.

Also read: From invisible to visible: How Durex became the second biggest condom brand in India by value

Q. What are some of the big trends to watch out for in the marketing space in India?

As Reckitt, we are crafting new models and frameworks to create scale and make it more meaningful in the ways we engage with our audiences. Purpose is playing an important role where each brand is intertwined with purpose in terms of making a difference to the society we play in. Other trends that do play a part in our marketing strategy include social media influencers, digital marketing and direct-to-consumer sales.

Social media influencers are playing an important role in driving consumer behaviour: influencer marketing is a trend which is here to stay. It is an effective tool in engaging directly with your consumers and it also helps in getting direct consumer inputs and feedback. With an increased adoption of smartphones and the internet, digital marketing will only grow further. Not only does it help reach out to multiple demographics, but it also helps in data analysis and enables us to reach out to a much wider audience segment.

Also read: Storyboard18 | The sexual wellness boom and how brands are addressing a new consumer

Direct-to-consumer sales via e-commerce have never been more important or generated the numbers we see today, and these will be key to any established or growing brand in the years to come.

Q. Can you give us some deep insights driving growth in urban and semi urban and how you are tailoring unique innovative campaigns to meet these demands?

India is vast geographically and demographically. It is imperative to address both urban and rural audiences and a growing set of semi-urban Indians. We tailor our campaigns based on our consumer profile and preferences. This has helped us build a much deeper connection with our users. Our recent Dettol Intense #ShowerCooler campaign with Moj was aimed at reaching the semi-urban/rural audience using the power of Digital to build a stronger connect with our consumers. For our Durex audiences largely based in urban India, we have found that Moment Marketing gives the brand a unique persona that the audience can relate to while engaging with them on topics that are trending. This strategy of deep diving into our TG is common across all of our brands and our innovation emanates keeping these insights in mind.

Q. How do you talk about sex in a country where talking about sex is taboo?

Talking about sex continues to be a taboo in our culture and our endeavour is to find creative ways to normalize conversations around sex while retaining Durex’s brand essence. TV advertising is quite restrictive for the sexual wellness industry which makes us rely heavily on digital and social media to have tough but open conversations. What sets us apart is that we directly started addressing women and their needs; this has been extremely effective for the brand.

Also read: Sex toys are going green

Moment marketing as mentioned earlier has emerged as an effective tool based on our understanding of behaviors and opinions of the social media brand audience. We strategically filter moments based on audience affinity and through social listening tools. People listen to us because our communication is open, honest, quirky and fun.

We have also been successfully running Durex’s The Birds and the Bees programme in the Northeast region. Engaging with adolescents and the youth has helped create a significant impact on having the right conversations around sex.