Line extensions – advantages and examples


When HLL introduced Lifebuoy in the Indian market in 1895(more than 100 years ago!), it was positioned as the soap that would destroy germs and keep the body healthy.

The brand found the going tough, especially in rural markets where most people were accustomed to bathing without any soap. HLL then decided to project Lifebuoy as soap for hand wash.

The approach seemed to pay off. By 1900, Lifebuoy had established itself as soap for hand wash.

At this stage, the brand’s inherent properties were expanded and Lifebuoy was repositioned as bath soap. Health remained the benefit proposition. ‘Where there is Lifebuoy, there is health’ became a very popular jingle in rural India. The brand was also projected on the plank of economy.

Much later, in 1964, the brand was re-launched with a slight change in its shape and wrapper design. The re-launch was also backed by promotion campaigns highlighting the ‘health benefit’. Lifebuoy started associating with sports events, seeking the image of a champion’s soap and the ‘health and body fitness’ campaign got reinforced at this stage.

By the 1970s, competitors entered challenging Lifebuoy’s supremacy. The benefit-propositions in soaps were also changing from healthcare to aspects such as freshness, beauty, nature-care and deodorant-quality.

HLL now had many requirements to meet; it had to tap some of these emerging market needs, it had to play down the image of Lifebuoy as a mere villager’s soap and it had to enhance the earnings from the Lifebuoy brand in the long term.

HLL decided to meet these needs by enlarging the scope of the Lifebuoy brand through line extensions.

Lifebuoy personal:

HLL now launched Lifebuoy Personal, in pink color, with a new perfume. But the brand suffered because it did not carry the benefit proposition of health and body care. HLL subsequently mended these drawbacks through an appropriate promotion campaign.

Lifebuoy Plus:

In the 1980s, HLL made special attempts to expand the reach of Lifebuoy to urban consumers. To quote HLL, ‘Lifebuoy was considered down market especially in the urban areas. So, we had to instill a sense of pride in the user; he should not be ashamed of using Lifebuoy.’ So Lifebuoy Plus came; it basically was the old Lifebuoy with a different perfume. Backed by high budget advertisement, HLL managed to popularize Lifebuoy Plus. Says HLL, ‘With Lifebuoy Plus we could widen the appeal to new, urban consumers.’

Lifebuoy Gold:

One more extension appeared for the urban consumers, Lifebuoy Gold; it broke away from all traditional red color of lifebuoy; it was pure white, had different fragrance and was higher priced.

Liquid Lifebuoy:

By this time, Liquid Lifebuoy also staged its entry to strengthen the brand’s presence in the urban market. It was a modern product form.

In the rural markets, Lifebuoy continued its dominance in spite of competition; there was the stubborn Lifebuoy user in the rural areas, who continued to patronize the brand. The line extensions— Lifebuoy Personal, Life buoy Plus, and the campaigns around them helped strengthen the brand name Lifebuoy to a great extent.

Lifebuoy Active:

But by the late 1990s, Lifebuoy was again under pressure. To quote HLL: ‘Lifebuoy has been facing pressure; carbolic soaps are being challenged by cheap fatty- matter based soaps. We are taking a series of measures to counter it.’ HLL then came out another extension, Lifebuoy Active, to take on the challenge posed by non-carbolic soaps.

While Lifebuoy continues its fight into the next century of its growth, HLL is endeavoring to keep Lifebuoy young and novel. The parent brand and the extensions together enhance the competitiveness of HLL’s soaps line. Lifebuoy remains the largest selling soap brand in India and a big revenue/profit earner for HLL.

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