Iconic Ads: Vicks Vaporub – Happy Birthday Mummy

Advertising was created to tackle the monsoon cold. It combined a rational benefit and emotion through children.

Richardson Hindustan launched Vicks VapoRub in the early 1950s.

It was positioned as a balm. Balms are stronger in terms of smell, etc., and function as an all-in-one for headaches, pains, sprains, and related problems. It is to be used only by adults.

Vaporub was milder, less greasy, and hence was positioned as a cold relieving salve for children. It was to be used on the nose, throat, chest and back at night.

Initially, based on international consumer behaviour & advertising, Vaporub was used as a winter remedy because the incidence of cold was greater at that time.

However, it was found that in India, people caught a cold even during monsoons. Hence, to tap this market, advertising was created to tackle this monsoon cold – getting wet, sneezing cough etc.

Advertising by Ogilvy combined a rational benefit with emotion which endeared it to the mother. In the 1980s, the children were the centre of the family, and all attention was given to the kids.

Jugal Hansraj and Radhika Bartake featured in advertising in which all aspects were covered – application, mothers love, children & restorative properties.

It certainly helped the brand it was had an ayurvedic tag in the 80s after druggists had boycotted it. Richardson Hindustan quickly extended the distribution to general trade.

The unchanging blue jar of Vicks VapoRub, a ubiquitous curative for the common cold, still brings nostalgia.

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