Gunjan Prasad
Jul 21, 2023

Reckitt mixes culture and customs to take on Indonesian consumers

Reckitt Indonesia cleverly breaks down traditional barriers, without foregoing local culture in key campaigns with Durex, Dettol and Harpic.

Reckitt mixes culture and customs to take on Indonesian consumers

At times, there comes an opportunity to do something extraordinary. This is where skilled marketers are trained to take it by its horns, make choices, and take a call to action that can change the category narrative in the market.

The current Durex campaign, titled, “Come Closer”, the third in the series of bold and ‘in-your-face’ digital campaigns that have changed the category narrative of condom marketing in Indonesia, was one such master stroke from Reckitt Indonesia.

“All marketers are marathon runners. We make changes during our time to ensure the brand is strengthened. We build a moat around it and then pass the baton to the next runner,” says Rahul Bibhuti, marketing director for Reckitt Indonesia. 

Our ideas were derived from the insights that “the pleasure gap was real” - and it means one person (the woman) was left with half of pleasure.,” explains Defri Dwipaputra, executive creative director, Dentsu - the agency behind the campaign, The campaign was married with a product called ‘Invisible’ that helps men last longer. Further, to engage with the cultural fabric of its audience, Durex collaborated with Soundwave - an electronic dance music (EDM) duo made up of popular Indonesian artists and a real-life couple, Jevin Julian (DJ and producer) and Rinni Wulandari (singer).

“Music is impactful. It reaches a wider audience and is not limited to only the traditional married couples," says Dwipaputra.

The Come Closer” video was launched on YouTube, and all across Durex’s social media assets, and also unveiled the song on Soundwaves Spotify account. It was a 60-second video that reached 30 millions in just three weeks on YouTube and eight millions impressions on Twitter.

Talking about sex and addressing issues like women not being able to climax and a brand empowering women to own the pleasure and embrace equity, was almost unfathomable in a country like Indonesia.

Durex: Changing the narrative

Cut to 2020.

Bibhuti landed in his new role at Reckitt Indonesia almost at the same time the Covid hit the world, and held a portfolio of brands that were to see completely different trajectories through the pandemic.

“The pandemic was a life-changing experience for most brands and their marketers. Some categories had the Covid headwinds - like Durexes of the world. We also have a brand called Vanish (a stain remover) that saw a significant drop,” explains Bibhuti. “On the other hand some brands like Dettol had a huge tailwinds.”

Durex, in sync with the entire condom category in Indonesia, was on a downward spiral when Covid hit. “As per our research, people do not use condoms in their marriages. During Covid, the birth rate went up from 4.5 million babies annually to 5 million babies. Our target audience, the youth, was not going out, intermingling and the clubs were shut down, and with them the uses and the occasions to use condoms went down drastically,” says Bibhuti.

People take things at face value. But Bibhuti dug harder. He had an agenda to grow a brand in a market where penetration levels stood at a dismal 4 to 5%. Condoms had a negative connotation and were seen as a male-only territory. Further, subjects like sexual health and intimacy were a taboo, even in private social settings such as amongst core family members, teachers and close friends.

All reports were pointing towards the changing DNA of the Indonesian society where young Indonesians were striving to break away from the past and carve out a distinct identity, changing the norms the society and at times breaking barriers. Luki Febriyanti, category lead, Reckitt, in her intensive market research pursuits and social media screenings found that when a post dealt with the subject of intimacy in an educated, healthy and informative manner, it managed just about 100 comments. On the other hand news and articles such as a public figure committing adultery and gossip about a famous adult movie star garnered no less than a 1,000 comments. Social media was giving Indonesian consumers, mostly the youth, a platform to “talk about sex”, not in the ‘preachy’ way but a more quirky, tongue-in-cheek fun way. There was a gap ready to be plugged.

The condom market in Indonesia had been very stagnant dominated by a local brand, Sutra, whose way of selling condoms has been aligning with family planning agencies, etc. Communications had been mostly reflective of male needs, projecting women as desires - rarely as equal partners. Durex too, primarily talked about family planning and safe sex, which Bibhuti soon gathered, wasn’t even getting people to use protection beyond a point.

The onus of protection and family planning in Indonesia mostly lies on the women, despite the physical impact it has on them. The most convenient contraception method is not used, with 56% of men feeling that condoms block pleasure in a survey conducted by Reckitt. On the other hand, women feel safer and better when their partners use protection leading to greater pleasure. A clear gap between the expectations from sexual intimacy between men and women.

“It was time to rewrite the category rule - break the stigma by normalising conversations on intimate wellbeing, by creating a culture where every single person has equitable access to make informed choices related to their reproductive health and contraception,” says Febriyanti. “It was also time for women to take ownership of their own pleasure.”

In the interviews conducted by Durex, it surfaced that while the society doesn’t approve of pre-marital sex, many youngsters end up doing it. “We cannot advise them about whether or not to have pre-marital sex, but we can be there for them. We want to be the brand that comes first to their mind - and they take conscious decision about consent and protection,” she adds.

The first big shift came with redefining the brand purpose. Acording to Bibhuti, just as Nike exists to unleash the best athlete in use, Durex exists to unleash your true sexual self, irrespective of your orientation, sex, etc. The journey started with a campaign titled, “Break Time”, in which a couple takes an intentional break to get physical and add spark to their relationship, which was a game changer.

“People were staying at home and after the initial closeness, close forced proximity brewed trouble. Our campaign talked about making time for pleasure,” says Bibhuti. This led to a significant increase in sales and share, and gave the company confidence to move to Phase 2: The “Take the lead” campaign in couple of months, as things started opening up during Valentine's Day.

“Women in Indonesia are strong and increasingly entering the work force in large numbers. If they can lead conversations at work place, they can lead physical intimacy in bedrooms,” Bibhuti adds.

In the third shift, Durex said that every individual has a right to own pleasure and thus, launched the “Come Closer” campaign.

The entire communication strategy was driven by digital. Backed by the right message, Reckitt went all out to build a very strong KOL ecosystem for Durex who helped normalise a bold and edgy brand positioning. The digital communication was so successful that the company used the power of Durex to drive the digital transformation for all Reckitt brands.

Dettol & Harpic: Strengthening the equity and building social impact

Unlike Durex, Dettol had a completely different flight path.

Early 2020, Dettol was selling like hot cakes, to the extent the factories weren’t able to keep up with the demand in Indonesia despite running 24/7. Reckitt, that held an 8% market share in the personal wash category, saw its shares doubled during the Covid years. As against Lifebuoy, that has been in the archipelago forever and coming from the stables of a Dutch company (Unilever) has long enjoyed consumer loyalty and been the traditional market leader with close to 30% market share, the brand custodians of Dettol built it brick by brick in Indonesia.

“The inflection point came with Covid when everywhere in the world we gained the highest penetration,” says Bibhuti.

Post Covid, the brand saw its sales slump, as suddenly people didn’t see the need to buy and use anti-bac anymore. “We can’t tweak the purpose of a brand like Dettol, whose germ kill equity is a 100 years old. We started capturing more moments of meaning and bringing in more occasions to increase usage,” says Bibhuti. Reckitt started to extend its overall reach and partnered with DMI (Dewan Masjid Indonesia) and IDI with whom it undertook cleanings of mosques, and sampling at some of the major mosques around the country. “Islam dictates purity is half the religion and we married this strong local religious sentiment with the campaign.”

Filmed inside the mosques and homes of people during Ramadan time, the campaign pushed a new habit of washing hands before Wudu (praying), eating and before greetings (shaking hands).

More recently, emboldened by the success of putting women in the lead role, Reckitt transposed a similar theme in its latest campaign for Dettol, titled “Dettol Cool: Own the Sweat”.

Dettol has always been talking to mothers as protectors of the family. However, they took a leap with the new campaign and expanded the brand message to recognise and celebrate the stories of young girls who are aspiring to be champions in sports and other career fields. The “Dettol Cool” campaign spoke about three young girls who do not see sweat as an obstacle, but embrace it wholeheartedly.

“We want to be a brand for all them, who show perseverance, who do not want to give up and those who Own the Heat,” shares Chetan Shetty, managing director, McCann Worldgroup - the agency behind this campaign.

Before the campaign broke, there were billboards  in Jakarta showing pictures of these young girls sweaty, breaking away from the clean and beautiful conventional images one associated with Dettol.

This set off a conversation with some of the popular influencers sharing it on social media. It was then followed with a press conference with popular Olympian Liliana along with these young girls, to share their stories and inspire many other to come forward to follow their passion.

Finally, in adapting to the changing consumer profiles with Durex while aligning brands like Dettol and Harpic with local cultures and traditions, Reckitt has been proactive in meeting its consumers wherever they are. In a recently concluded campaign for Harpic, the FMCG also managed to create real social impact while being relevant to local culture. As a leading toilet cleaner specialist brand in Indonesia, Harpic launched the initiative called “Aksi Bersih 1000 Toilet” to clean toilet in 1,000 mosques and 300 Alfamart stores along the Mudik’ routes to provide access to hygienic clean toilets for travellers in providing access of hygienic clean toilet for the travellers, returning home for the Holy Month.

“In our relentless pursuit of touching more household with specialised toilet cleaner in Indonesia, this initiative serves as the real example on how Harpic solves the real problem for a superior clean toilet, even in a public toilet, thus making access to highest quality hygiene products a right, not a privilege,” shares Bibhuti.   


Campaign Asia

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