Storyboard18 | Throwback: The making of Santoor’s ‘mummy’ campaign idea


The ‘mummy’ campaign laid the foundation for Santoor’s success. By 2006, Santoor became the third-largest selling soap in India. And by 2019, it was the 2nd largest.

Storyboard18 | Throwback: The making of Santoor’s ‘mummy’ campaign idea
The pursuit of beauty and youth is timeless. The famous anecdote of Cleopatra owing her beauty to bathing in milk comes to mind. In India, we have our own elixir for youthful skin, the potent combination of sandalwood and turmeric. Whether by bathing in beauty potions or by use of cosmetics, the contemporary beauty industry too, focuses on slowing or reversing ageing from the ravages of time.
Launch of Santoor
Inspired by the time tested use of sandalwood and turmeric paste as a beauty treatment, and for maintaining the health of the skin, Wipro launched a sandalwood–turmeric-based soap. The distinctive soap, launched in 1985, was named “Santoor”, a confluence of ‘san’dalwood + ‘tur’meric.
The initial phase of Santoor advertising during the mid-1980s was conventional, emphasizing the traditional benefits of sandalwood and turmeric. The result was that by 1987-88, Santoor sales were steady, but not growing. The Santoor brand needed reworking.
Research and insight
In 1989, Ulka Advertising (now FCB Ulka) was given the task of building brand appeal.
Ulka conducted research and discovered that “Santoor” was viewed as a middle-class brand. It appealed to a select group of consumers who wanted sandalwood-based soap. This was a small market.
Research showed that women did value beauty and good looks and considered them to be linked to soap. Other findings were that women consumers wanted to be respected. But the “Santoor” woman did not stand out.
Societal changes like rapid urbanization and more disposable incomes had contributed to making people more aware of their appearance, and they had become more aspirational. This translated to greater consciousness about beauty as well as self-image.
Timeless ingredients in a soap
For ages, Indian women have used sandalwood and turmeric pastes for skincare. These aid in maintaining the suppleness of the skin while also tightening it. These pastes also have anti-inflammatory and healing properties. All of these result in the benefit of a ‘younger-looking skin.’
Santoor, a saffron-golden coloured soap, promised women ‘younger-looking skin’. The promise was supported by the two core ingredients and was portrayed in a contemporary setting.
Unfolding of the creative
Senior creative director Subodh Poddar led the project at Ulka. He and his team developed many creative concepts. While grappling with these ideas, Subodh knew that they had to choose an idea that would have an emotional appeal to the target customers. After much deliberation, came the ‘a-ha’ moment: “Twacha se meri umra ka pata hi nahi chalta”. This became the idea for the brand campaign.
Subodh recollects some aspects of the campaign. Rahul Patel had shot the model Poonam Gidwani for the scratch presentation. Juno Malhotra and Kutu Chatterjee had done the rough films.
The famous jingle “Haldi aur chandan ke gun samaye Santoor, Jeevan ko kuch aur sajaye Santoor" was composed by the great master, P. Vaidyanathan and sung by Kavita Krishnamoorthy.
Subodh used the voice of Alisha Chinai for the lines “Twacha se meri umra ka pata hi nahi chalta”.
The idea was presented to the Wipro team. They decided to test market it in Kochi. After the success of the test market, Kailash Surendranath made the first two films.
The making
The more popular one came later. When the time came to shoot this new ad film, Anil Kapoor (ex-Chairman Ulka) asked Subodh to direct it. Anil was confident that Subodh could do it, even though he had no prior filmmaking experience. He told Subodh “use your ideas, use the best director of photography and the best music composer and you are done.” And he was right. The director of photography for this film was Ashok Mehta (the award-winning cinematographer). The model in the television commercial was Priya Kakkar.
Subodh recounts an interesting, even traumatic, incident, with a smile. Priya had attended a party the night before the shoot. In response to some friends’ challenge, she decided to dance like Hema Malini in the famous movie Sholay, to “Jab tak hain jaan”.
To be authentic, she broke a bottle and danced on glass pieces! The result was an injury to her leg and a plaster. So when she arrived in a wheelchair on the set the next day, all were taken aback! The script had Priya Kakkar walk into the store. In what was ingenious improvising by Subodh and Ashok, Priya stood on a trolley and glided by in the commercial. Creative mid-shots were taken and the ad was completed.
This newer television commercial had a group of college girls admiring the Santoor woman in a bookshop, asking her which college she studied in … only to be surprised when her daughter ran up screaming ‘Mummy’! The television advertisement showed, arguably, the best compliment a married woman with a child could get… being mistaken for a college girl.
This campaign laid the foundation for Santoor’s success. By 2006, Santoor became the third-largest selling soap in India. And by 2019, it was the 2nd largest.
Santoor’s recent advertising celebrates the achievements of a woman who fills ‘a man’s world’ with her talents and skills to become a pilot, doctor, engineer, fashion photographer and most importantly – a mom. The ‘mummy’ remains a campaign idea that continues to work in the market.
Subodh Tagare is an Associate Professor at IMT Nagpur, where he teaches courses on marketing. Prior to IMT, Subodh was the marketing director at American Power Conversion/ Schneider Electric for South Asia.
S Vejay Anand consults with organizations on business strategy and marketing. He has also been an entrepreneur in the food and pet care spaces. Earlier he was President at Coffee Day and COO at USPL.
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