Cherry Blossom tries to make shoe polish relevant in today’s times
By Venkata Susmita Biswas
In the mid-1980s, the sale of Reckitt Benckiser’s shoe polish brand Cherry Blossom had stagnated, as polishing shoes was perceived to be ‘a servant’s job’. It is this insight that led adman Alyque Padamsee to use Charlie Chaplin as the brand’s mascot, in order to attribute a certain status to the act of polishing shoes with a dash of humour.
In the three decades since the iconic Charlie Chaplin ad, people don’t harbour such feudal beliefs anymore, and no longer feel the need to polish shoes either.
Out of fashion
The black shoe polish, which Cherry Blossom is most known for, has become irrelevant for working professionals who now have a multitude of footwear options to choose from for formal wear. Moreover, the quintessential black leather shoe has given way to suede shoes and ones with neutral shades. “Now, only professionals in the sales departments, or insurance and bank sector wear black leather shoes,” points out Prathap Suthan, managing partner and CCO, Bang in the Middle. Casual footwear and sportswear, too, are now accepted at the workplace.
In its latest brand communication, after a gap of a decade, Cherry Blossom is attempting to revive the habit of polishing one’s own shoes. “The rising informality in society today has made people neglect the act of polishing. Hence, with our new campaign Polish to Shine, we intend to restore and emphasise the need for polishing shoes,” says Sukhleen Aneja, CMO and marketing director, hygiene-home, South Asia, Reckitt Benckiser.
Kedar Teny, chief strategy officer, Tilt Brand Solutions, the agency behind the campaign, says that although Cherry Blossom enjoys high awareness and market share, “regular consumption of the brand in households has been a challenge for a while”.
The other challenge is that the market is getting fragmented. Suthan points out that shoe brands are themselves manufacturing shoe polish and shoe care products, and selling them at their exclusive stores and in multi-brand stores.
People who know the brand from the 1980s are not the target audience for the latest campaign. This ad addresses school students and young office-goers by portraying that polishing shoes is an act of character building and a matter of discipline.
“We are at a stage where our growth is not limited only to the metros; even in the tier II and III cities there is a deep desire and aspiration to work hard and well, both socially and economically. We wanted to tap into these markets and their aspirations,” explains Teny.
Just like forming habits is a tried and tested marketing strategy of FMCG brands, Cherry Blossom, too, is hoping to drive sales using this tactic. “But it is difficult for a single brand to build a habit on a national scale. They will never have enough funds to change habits against popular culture,” says Saurabh Uboweja, CEO, Brands of Desire.
Aneja believes that being the market leader with more than 65% share, “the onus of growing the market for shoe care” lies with Cherry Blossom.
Presently, the company’s traditional wax polish is its best selling SKU; modern segments like Handyshine and liquid wax, too, are seeing growth.
The brand is stepping up investments to drive category visibility across stores, says Aneja. With the school season set to kick in soon, Cherry Blossom plans to engage with school children to encourage the habit of polishing shoes at a young age.