Once upon a time, OMO detergent (a household name which stands for “Old Mother Owl”) from the stables of Unilever has adjudged the king of detergent in the Nigerian market. In those days, the exploits of OMO as the detergent of choice dwarfed the performances of rivals as it boxed the likes of Elephant from the stables of PZ Cusson, Surf detergent made by Unilever, and other small players, into a tight corner.
Its dominance in the market was such that its television adverts which promised that, “Super Blue OMO washes brighter and it shows” became an anthem among children who grew up in the early 90s.
However, the arrival of Eko Supreme Resources, makers of So Klin, sometime in 1996 was the beginning of fall of the “king”. The brand, So Klin, which started nibbling at the fringes of OMO’s market share came into the market with an innovation, white detergent which was an industry first.
In addition, its offer of a detergent with a deep-washing function gave Nigerians reasons to switch their loyalty to the new brand. With So Klin, they did not need to spend extra money to buy bleach for their white laundry, unlike the blue OMO which they suddenly noticed turned their white clothes, blue. Also, the fact that So Klin came in small affordable sachets added another perk to its handful of benefits.
Interestingly, the “game plan” to overthrow OMO, initiated by So Klin, was played to the hilt by Ariel detergent from the stables of Procter & Gamble (P&G) a late-comer to the detergent market in the country.
At the beginning of the race, So Klin was more interested in marketing than brand-building, this was the deficiency that was leveraged by Ariel, which was first launched in 1998, to upstage the competition in the detergent market.
Unlike So Klin, Ariel boasts a rich parentage (P&G) that could match OMO’s parent brand money for money, in terms of investment in research and development, advertising and marketing support and distribution logistics.
Bearing in mind the various challenges posed by new entrants into the detergent product line, major producers now have more threats from the ‘not so huge players’ such as Nasco Industries, producers of Brytex and Bonus, and Limex Global, manufacturers of Miss Bimbo who are now making huge impacts in the detergent market.
However, major FMCGs in the country, Unilever Nigeria Plc, makers of Sunlight detergent and OMO detergent, Procter & Gamble (P&G), producers of Ariel, and PZ Nigeria Plc, manufacturers of Canoe are unrelenting in their quest to dominate and hold the ace in the detergent market.
What big players are doing
Our finding shows how that the big players in the market have also considerably added more value to their product offerings, such as pleasing fragrances to attract and retain consumers’ interest.
Re-branding, re-packaging, re-designing and reducing sizes to be more pocket-friendly with the reduced purchasing power of consumers are some of the other strategies employed by these big players to ensure that they capture more of the market for themselves.
New washing technology and chemicals for commercial laundry service providers, such as stain removers, also serve as added value.
In 2010, Ariel improved on its products with a technology that introduced more enzymes and polymers that remove tough stains in ‘one wash that most detergents can’t remove in two washes,’ which other detergent brands have tried to beat thereafter.