Votes are in and our first product will be called माझा शॅम्पू (My Shampoo). If only I could say it! I really need to brush up on my Marathi to get the pronunciation right…
Next we need a logo. We want something that conveys quality, assurance and trust. And we want the logo to be something the consumers will be proud to have permanently in their bathrooms.
We had three options, all very different…
We liaised with brand consultants and identity designers in the UK and America that we have worked with previously. For the most part, their preference was strongly for option two or three. They felt these were more modern and vibrant but also carried the required sense of quality and assurance we wanted. We agreed.
But it was not their choice. And neither did we think it was ours. When we showed the options to the women who might be buying this product, they didn’t agree.
We sampled women at various locations and here is a record from a waste recycling facility in Aurangabad where some of the women work …
The hands down winner, with well over 50% of votes was option one, so that's what we're running with…
We were well aware of the polluting effects of plastic sachets but through our consumer research we found another consequence, they clog drains. Not just in the home, where they can cause showers to block up but more broadly in the neighbourhood where they can cause drains to overflow and roads to flood. In monsoon season the problem can be particularly acute.
This Times of India article talks about how plastics generally causes city drains to clog, but pays no attention to the clogging effect of sachets in peoples’ homes.
We worked with a design and branding company in India to explore branding and naming strategies. It was a useful exercise
Nothing is yet settled, but we’re leaning towards a name that reflects the collaborative and communitarian approach we’ve taken.
We are working very closely with the low-income consumers, all women, we hope will buy our product. They've told us what they look for in a shampoo and what they don't want, they've selected the product from a range of options, told us what they want to see on the label and given us suggestions for how to pitch it. To reflect this, we are toying with branding our product ‘My Shampoo’ or ‘Our Shampoo’.
Most brands in India are in English or Hindi, but we're thinking of using the local language, Marathi, so it could be
माझा शॅम्पू (My Shampoo)
आमचा शैम्पू (Our Shampoo)
We’ll put these out to test to see what people think.
As an interesting aside, we learned that the word shampoo comes from India. This a passage from Wikipedia…
The word shampoo entered the English language from the Indian subcontinent during the colonial era. It dated to 1762 and was derived from the Hindi word cā̃pō (चाँपो, itself derived from the Sanskrit root capati (चपति), which means 'to press, knead, or soothe'
In the Indian subcontinent, a variety of herbs and their extracts have been used as shampoos since ancient times. The first origin of shampoo came from the Indus Valley Civilization. A very effective early shampoo was made by boiling Sapindus with dried Indian gooseberry (amla) and a selection of other herbs, using the strained extract. Sapindus, also known as soapberries or soapnuts, a tropical tree widespread in India, is called ksuna (Sanskrit: क्षुण) in ancient Indian texts and its fruit pulp contains saponins which are a natural surfactant. The extract of soapberries creates a lather which Indian texts called phenaka (Sanskrit: फेनक). It leaves the hair soft, shiny and manageable. Other products used for hair cleansing were shikakai (Acacia concinna), hibiscus flowers,ritha (Sapindus mukorossi) and arappu (Albizzia amara).Guru Nanak, the founder and the first Guru of Sikhism, made references to soapberry tree and soap in the 16th century
Cleansing the hair and body massage (champu) during one's daily bath was an indulgence of early colonial traders in India. When they returned to Europe, they introduced the newly learned habits, including the hair treatment they called shampoo.
We have our shampoo, but now we had to give it a name.
This felt like a real opportunity to make it into the top ten worst brand names ever, but when I looked into it, I realised the competition was pretty tough. Here's an amusing list (and if I owned Master Bait & Tackle, coming in at #8, I’d demand a recount)
Top Ten Worst Names
- Morning Wood Company
- Bunghole Liquors
- Sam & Ella’s Chicken Palace
- Passmore Gas
- Master Bait & Tackle
- Dumass Taco
- Knobs ‘n Knockers
We had our work cut out. Any suggestions, please let us know!
Our project is about demonstrating an alternative to the plastic sachet so that shampoo and other products can be sold without generating enormous amounts of plastic waste. We had hoped to work with some big brands, or any brand come to that, already selling shampoo in sachets, but we couldn't get any takers. The most encouraging response we got amounted to ‘Come back to us when you've proved that it works’!
So we had to create our own shampoo brand. An essential element of this is, of course, the shampoo itself.
After some of our own research and testing, we limited down to four shampoos we wanted to test with our target market - low-income consumers in India. As a benchmark, we included the market leader, Clinic Plus from Unilever.
We provided consumers with a sample of products and ask them to fill out a survey. We also conducted supplementary one-on-one interviews to get more detailed feedback.
Results vary across the piece, but the big picture finding is that two of our shampoos beat Clinic Plus, and not by a small margin. Here is the summary table…
Billions of sachets are used every day, but it turns out consumers really don't like them. We conducted a range of surveys with different groups of low-income women consumers in India, the primary buyers of shampoo in sachets but a group rarely, if ever, listened to.
Through a series of group sessions and one-on-one interviews, we explored many aspects of their interaction with sachets – why they use them, where they buy them, what they think of them, what they dislike most about them, and so on.
Some of the findings are obvious. The primary reason to buy a sachet is the cost. You can get them for one rupee (about a penny) and even if you had the cash to buy a bottle, the unit price is substantially higher.
They're also sealed so you know it's the real product without any adulteration.
And they're easy to store and convenient should you ever travel.
That's about it.
On the downside, there is widespread frustration with sachets. They are difficult to open, particularly if you have wet hands, storing any excess is messy, they can be wasteful and the empty sachet causes waste and can clog drains. All up, not ideal. Oh, and they cause plastic waste that all the consumers are aware of but they don't have any alternative.
There are some unexpected insights too. Opening the sachet is a pain point. Most people use their teeth and really dislike the taste of shampoo, while others keep a pair of scissors or pin in the shower. One woman abraded the sachet on a pumice stone that she also used on her body.
All the women strongly favoured using a bottle, seeing it as a greatly upgraded user experience, and this is something we will play to when we launch.
In recent weeks we've been conducting a range of tests to find out what consumers think about sachets and how using them compares to using the small plastic bottles we plan to use as part of our refill solution.
It's not even close. We were anticipating some reluctance in moving from familiar habits, but it seems using a bottle is simply a way superior experience. And for many consumers it’s a novel one too, since purchasing a shampoo in bottles is too expensive - for many people in the survey it was the first time they'd used shampoo this way.
We captured consumer attitude across a whole range of measures but this simple chart summarises the big picture…
A critical element in our refill solution is the (ideally enthusiastic) participation of kirana store owners. By some estimates there are about 15 million of these stores across India, most run by an individual or family.
Very roughly, there’s a kirana store for every 100-300 people, so it's rare to go far without seeing one.
The stores are remarkably space efficient, making sure to use every square inch to display or store product. Even in a very limited area you'll find a wide range of products across numerous categories.
There can be a strong bond of loyalty between the kirana store owner and their customers. Customers typically use the same kirana store for years and store owners often extend small amounts of credit to their customers.
A core element of our refill work is to bring about behaviour changes on the part of the consumer as well as the store owner. To understand better how storeowners think about all this, we conducted a number of in-depth interviews….
As part of our effort to create our own shampoo brand, we undertook a range of testing with consumers in our target market.
In addition to interviews to learn how often they use shampoo, what they think about sachets, what factors weigh on their decisions etc., we also handed out a range of samples for them to test at home in bottles.
Here are some photos of testers at a municipal waste recycling facility receiving their samples…