Gone are those pre-COVID days when my weekends would not be complete without watching a movie at the theatre. Cities would change. Movies would change. But one thing remained constant across most of the theatres in India. The advertisement before the movie. Remember the Vicco advertisement?

Yes, it is an advertisement that people have been watching for nearly seven decades now. Take a trip down memory lane before you start reading.

So how Vicco was started?

Shri K.V Pendharkar founded Vishnu Industrial Chemical Company or Vicco group of companies in the year 1952. The company started to provide home-grown products that promoted India’s heritage through Ayurveda.

The brand promised affordability and used tradition to promote its products much before the likes of Patanjali hit the markets. Of its portfolio of products, Vicco Turmeric skin cream, Vicco Vajradanti powder, and toothpaste became an instant hit.

The company first launched Vicco Vajrandanti, first of its kind Ayurvedic Toothpaste with 20 rare medicinal herbs in the year 1952.

However, Vicco’s most significant success came from the first of its kind, Vicco Turmeric Cream launched in the late 50s. At a time when only the snow and winter creams ruled the market, Vicco aimed at changing the dynamics in the skincare segment by being an early mover. It emphasized the importance of skincare through the antiseptic properties of Turmeric.

Vicco created a market for ayurvedic cosmetics,the first-ever fairness cream was launched in India.

It wasn’t a smooth sailing at the start. The company initially faced challenges with the yellow colour of the turmeric cream. People felt that it would leave their face yellow. The company asked their salesmen to try out the cream on the retailers’ faces and show them the results in a mirror. Sales associates even carried mirrors with them on their rounds to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product!

Years later, Vicco has stuck with the reddish-orange tube.

What were Vicco’s key marketing strategies that led to its tumultuous success?

Vicco started with door-to-door marketing along with some print and outdoor media. Eventually, they forayed into television, becoming one of the first brands to sponsor a TV serial. At a time when there weren’t advertisements playing every 3-5 minutes, Vicco created quite an impression in the viewer’s mind. It was telecasted just before the popular series Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi on Doordarshan.

Vicco always promoted its deep-rooted connection with India’s rich heritage and culture. In its very first advertisement, Vicco showcased the significance of the Haldi ceremony at a wedding. Women well appreciated the clear messaging of making age-old methods of beautifying them.

Such was the power of the brand that women started using Vicco Turmeric as a substitute for turmeric paste/ Haldi in ceremonies.
  • Vicco created products for the masses. They priced the products, keeping the target audience, i.e. youth and women in mind.
  • Lastly, Vicco had a reliable product. They used ayurvedic ingredients with healing and antiseptic properties. Since their products were not tested on animals, it made Vicco very attractive to people believing in ‘beauty without cruelty’.

Vicco is a government-permitted manufacturer under ADL or Ayurvedic Drug Licence. Vicco Vajradanti toothpaste received the PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) ‘Proggy Award’ 2005 for its ‘vegan’ label.

Fast forward 40 years, once a glorified house-hold name Vicco now got lost somewhere. What changed?

With the arrival of international brands like Unilever, P&G, and the emergence of various home-grown brands like Dabur and Himalaya, the brand started facing a touch competition. With deep pockets allowing extravagant advertisements, the competition was able to capture top-of-mind awareness that Vicco once held. Struck in a time capsule of sorts, they never even tried changing the packaging of the product.

The brand also failed to keep up with the changing needs of modern India. At the time when women were focusing on breaking the glass ceiling, Vicco’s advertisement campaigns still were revolved around the concept of fairness and marriage.

Despite being a heavy advertiser in cinema screens, the brand failed to capture the attention of the millennials.

So was that THE-END for Vicco?

While the brand continued to exist, it lost a massive market share to the competition over the last 20 years.

Today, Vicco is trying to rise like a phoenix after being dormant for many years. In 2019, Vicco introduced Alia Bhatt as a brand ambassador with a re-invented theme song in its quench to become a billion rupee brand. It wants to create a tectonic shift in its communication and media strategies.

Latest Vicco Advertisement with Alia Bhatt

Apart from adding a few variants of the existing products, they added new products like shaving creams and foam face washes to keep up with the changing consumer needs. 

Vicco is going Digital too

The 70-year-old brand has also become digital with their Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram pages. The brand keeps showing its online presence through regular updates and trending creatives. It continues to engage with the customers by educating them about Ayurveda and its benefits in promoting healthy and glowing skin.

At the time, when brands are moving from cosmetics to natural/cruelty-free/ vegan/ ayurvedic products, Vicco is betting big on the image it has created over the years to make a comeback.

 When you say Vicco, the first thing that comes to mind is that trust. Today, there are many other competitors speaking about Ayurvedic and herbal products. Brands that have spent their entire lifespans, promoting themselves as cosmetic brands are now calling themselves natural/ herbal. As far as Vicco is concerned, the first thing that should come to mind is trusted Ayurveda.

Shrirang Tembherkar, Brand and Media Manager at ViccoLabs.

Whether Vicco will be able to make a comeback or not will be known only in a few years. For me the trip to a movie theatre would nevertheless be incomplete without “ Vicco turmeric, Nahi cosmetic…”

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Swati is a Chartered Accountant with 6 years of experience working with some of the biggest global brands. While her profession demands number-crunching, she is a story-teller at heart. She loves travelling and meeting new people. Connect with her on LinkedIn for stories and more!

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