FMCG major Hindustan Unilever's attempt to promote equal division of household chores like washing dishes sinks.
We live in a digital world, where every move made by someone famous is accounted for and highly critiqued on the internet. Internet users today are progressive, insightful, picky and blunt. Even the most minute action out of order is easily recognised and blown out of proportion. There’s a lot to learn through the internet and social media. Especially with the impact Gen Z has had over the last few years, the world has become more progressive and stereotypes are phasing out. No longer are jobs defined based on one's economic background, social status, age or gender. Brands too, are creating products and promoting them in unique ways that break away from traditional social norms.
At such a time, releasing a "limited edition" product and a corresponding advertisement that highlights a stereotype could be a recipe for disaster.
In Hindustan Unilever's latest advertisement for their dishwashing liquid Vim, we see celebrity Milind Soman promoting the brand's new offering, ‘Vim Black.’
It’s the entire premise of the advertisement that has riled up those who watched it.
The ad opens in a gym, where we see a guy bragging about helping his mother wash the dishes. He seems to believe that he has done a great deed by helping wash the dishes. He further gloats by saying that he “often” helps in washing. The ad spotlights the fact that washing dishes is always seen as a chore that only women do at home. Moreover, for a man to help in daily chores is considered as a privilege being bestowed.
At this point, Milind Soman appears with a bottle of Vim Black in his hand telling the man that he can brag as much as he wants if he starts using this new offering.
It seems like an elaborate ploy to get people to talk about the equal division of chores at home. A space that P&G's Ariel has occupied for years with its Share The Load campaign.
But Share The Load is far more straightforward and HUL's attempt relies heavily on sarcasm. Tongue firmly in cheek.
But the thing with sarcasm is that not everyone gets it. Like many netizens, we were left absolutely shocked when we first watched the ad.
How could HUL have gotten something so terribly wrong? Does this product actually exist? What were they thinking? Is it April Fool's Day?
The confusion is on-going. Because it is entirely believable.
It wouldn't be unheard of to change the color of packaging to black to make a product more appealing to men. Marketers have used the 'pink it, shrink it' strategy for years, which is basically changing the colour, size, shape of packaging to make a product more appealing to women. The opposite - black, works for men.
In this case, HUL seems to be making a point. But the brand's attempt to normalise men doing household chores with what seems to be an elaborate gimmick looks to be backfiring.
Perhaps it was just too smart for its own good?
However, if the company was looking for a conversation starter then they've certainly hit the nail on the head. The question is where will all this chatter lead? Does the brand have a plan or is this a flash in the pan of purpose-driven ads?
We've reached out to Hindustan Unilever for a comment and the article will be updated with their response.
The article has been updated to reflect the fact that this seems to be a 'limited edition' conversation starter pack and not commercially available.