Return on sales for Billion Baht per year “Nokkaew soap”, the first soap brand in Thailand.
“Nokkaew (Parrot Body Soaps) always walks along side with Thais today and forever” has been the clear marketing path of Nokkaew soap, the first Thai soap brand, for all these 55 years. It is at the same time trying to get through the mighty wall of other international brands.
55 years ago, Nokkaew soap, wrapped in green paper box with 3 bright green parrots pictures, was well-known among Thai people. Because of its strength of its firm texture, it is suitable for all water condition especially, showering in canal as a lifestyle of Thai people in country sides.
Its position back in that time was “soap for country people” while in Bangkok, most people were more into other international brands.
Another strength which turned to weakness was Thai herb mixed into its ingredients. Most Thai people back then didn’t have much belief in Thai herb as it was still something out of their concern.
Finally, executive of Rubia Industries Limited has brought back the strength that was once a weakness back on track. With this strength mixed with new innovation of production, the situation has been recovered bringing the soap’s popularity back and destroying other international brands’ thick walls down even though its market share is quite far from “Lux” soap from Lever Brother.
The number confirmed from executive of Rubia Industries Limited identifies that in 2000, the sales of Nokkeaw soap reached 400 Million Baht and 20% of market share accounted from total market value of 3,000 Million Baht while Lex was still the first in the market.
During the past 55 years since the beginning of Nokkkeaw soap and its marketing strategy of each period are quite interesting story worth following.
Nokkeaw soap was developed in Thailand after WWII in 1947 by Walter Leo Mayer, chief executive of Berli Jucker at that time.
Berli Jucker is the company importing products from foreign countries to Thailand and exporting Thai rice and teak to foreign countries without producing their own products. Soap was the very first product owned by them. Even though Walter Leo Mayer is not Thai, but a swiss who considered Thailand as his home. More importantly, he noticed the value of Thai herb and developed herb soap for Thai people using French essence that was normally imported by the company.
After WWII and Germany’s being defeated, its assets including the machine for COLIBRITA (Humming bird) soap production were sold by auction. Lever Brother, the owner of Lux bought COLIBRITA brand while Walter Leo Mayer bought the machine.
Nokkeaw soaps were then firstly made by Rubia Industries Limited located in Rubia Road, Kluaynamthai district with the help from Berli Jucker for distribution until now. However, marketing strategy to build brand’s strength has been according to concept provided by Rubia Industries Limited itself.
The strength of the soap from the beginning has been the firm texture of the soap: durable and suitable for all water types. It was also for people who lived in the typical weather so, the soap could wash out their sweat and provide the permanent scent.
The price was also considered cheap for Thai people: starting from 3-5 Baht each.
In 1953, Nokkeaw soap started to have advertisement through poster, radio and printed media. Until 1971, it was the first time for the product to be on television. It was indicated that the sales were up to 25 Million Baht and there was also a sign of the continuing growth. The substantial change for production happened that year.
From the small factory in Kluaynamthai district with less than 20 employees, it was expanded to the factory on the area of 10 Rai in Pu Chao Saming Phrai with almost 100 employees in 1974.
The marketing strategy in the second period was rather tense: the name of the brand became more well-recognized. However, the main customers were still from the country sides. So, getting the actors or actresses involved as presenters in the advertisement such as Pumpuang Duangjan was successful beyond expected.
During that time, there were some changes made by the executive such as color, scent or concept to skin care using the actors. They however, were not quite that successful because the uniqueness of green paper wrap was dug and stuck deeply inside customers’ minds. Without any new tricks, marketing seemed to be the only thing that could emphasize this brand into Thai people’s hearts.
In 1994, it was the golden age of economy in Thailand. Nokkeaw soap started to seriously get affected because people turned to international products more. The new advertising film, therefore, came up with clearer idea of campaign on Thai product use, Thai culture and tradition and, Thai lifestyle. Santisuk Promsiri was a presenter for one campaign as he was popular in a role of country young man named “Boonchu” so, he was acceptable to both old and young generation.
However, the ascending phase of economy had some parts to do with increasing sales from 25 Million Baht in 1971 to 100 Million Baht in 1996. If looking at market share, Nokkeaw was still far from other brands like Lux from Unilever and Palm Olives from Colgate-Palmolive Company. Nokkeaw gained only 3% of the total market share.
The important change of the company happened again in 1997 when Thai economy was in the worse condition. It could turn around the crisis into the opportunity.
During that crisis time, all soap brands were in serious trouble so, the competition to survive was severe. The same strategy was used by all: price reduction while Nokkeaw went the other way around: price increment.
“There were whole lot of products left in the warehouse. We could get them out in time” said one executive. All executives had to seriously turn around and consider what the strong and weak points of this product. They concluded that the slogan “A brand for Thai” was its strong point. However, the image of Nokkeaw was still a family product for Thais in middle and low status who lived outside the city.
Secondly, “scent” and “bubble” which was not that much slimy seemed to be another strong point. However, it was not because Thai people preferred soap from foreign countries with more amount of moisturizer to suit people with dry skin living in cold countries. What could be done to get people to understand?
Thirdly, the systematic research showed that this good quality product didn’t attract teenage or adult customers who wanted soap with lesser scent and more quality on skin care. So, new products were produced to respond to people’s needs.
In that time, Rubia Industries Limited hired Jirayut Mahawanit as Director of Marketing. He came from advertising agency so, he understood deeply about advertising and public relations and be able to interestingly bond the real situation from each period to the content of the marketing.
The problem about “IMF” made most Thai people feel of being taken advantages of by foreigners. Jirayut took a chance of such time to be representative of Thai product which was produced in Thailand. The feeling of “Thai make for Thai to use” was created for Thai people. That was why the classic advertising film “KoTee” was made in September 1997.
Before, Nokkeaw had tried to place the priority on product by “Thai and used by Thai” in the advertisement. The attempt to encourage the market hadn’t worked out that well. Until there was the financial incident which brought back Thai people’s intention towards Thai product. The result of both advertising films could be called the big progress of marketing. When this kind of marketing was working; instead of reducing the price like other brands did, Nokkkeaw increased the price from 4 Baht to 5 Baht each.
When the main soap like green parrot soap was strong enough, new product like GOLD parrot soap was introduced in the middle of 1998. The selling point was the quality to protect skin and the ingredient of moisturizer with different color and scent. Women were of course the main market target.
“From the fragrance that was always with Thai people to the new fragrance of GOLD parrot soap: with more moisturizer and the scent of wild wood and flower” was the first content of advertisement that day.
Since then, Nokkeaw has come up with many more activities with the market consistently: new products have immersed every year. In 1999, baby soap was developed under the name “Extra mild parrot soap”.
New product like shower cream was introduced in 2000 and in the middle of the same year, “Parrot Protection” came out to attract people who loved exercises. “Zico”, Kiatisuk Senamuang, the forward of Thai football team, was a presenter.
It was to penetrate the market and expand to the new group of customers consistently. It was an interesting new innovation of this company to use the exiting strength of the soap as a base.
While the existing product like “Classic Nokkeaw” has been consistently going on the public and emphasizing on Thainess, for example, the campaign “Wash your hearts to become Thai” or “Donation to save the country”.
However, the image of new products in term of beauty, skin protection and baby were quite difficult because there were other strong brands controlling the market: LUX from Lever Brother as the top for beauty, Protex soap from Colgate-Palmolive Company as the long-time first rank for skin protection until Harmony from Lever Brother sent out to compete.
Niruti stated interestingly about the respond to each product from the company that “2 years of Nokkeaw shampoo was not quite successful. Even though we are strong in soap, it is not a guarantee that you can take the brand name and continue with something else. It might be too fast to introduce this product. We have learnt that at one point, we may present at one step, not the big several steps ahead”. When it came to the conclusion, these executives turned to the new strategy by focusing on GOLD parrot soap which was more acceptable and stronger.
“GOLD parrot soap was quite successful. So, no matter what we do about women, everything happens easily. However, series of timing is important. It is positive for us to want to make a move so fast, but we are not that ready yet. Nevertheless, as a executive, it is like a game that need to be tested”.
In 2002, it was another turning point for the company as the name “Nokkeaw GOLD” was changed to “Parrot GOLD”. The new ingredient was also introduced “balanced with Vitamin E and moisturizer for Thai people skin”. Another product was also launched, Lavender Parrot GOLD in beige color in modern beautiful package.
Today, the path of Nokkeaw is clearer with two main products: Classic Nokkeaw and new Parrot GOLD. The new product is focusing on beauty and modernity while the previous version is keeping the existing uniqueness of scent. However, the new scents and color of soap version will be introduced soon that are blue for new generation focusing on refreshes, green for adult male and pink for women. These 3 new products are during the process and its the advertising film will be online at the beginning of next year.
The creative modern work through the content of advertising film by Syed Darcy Company is a part of the change in Nokkeaw image. It is the successful communication to customers about its new image.
In spite of being number one in soap market, it is undeniable that the successful move during the past 4-5 years of Nokkeaw has tickled the fear for many brands to watch out for Thai brand which used to be just a brand outside the city.
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