Durex acquisition will grow RB’s emotional connection

Reckitt Benckiser’s (RB) acquisition of Durex brand owner SSL is a goodstrategic move although the brands are not an obvious fit, according tobrand experts.

The FMCG manufacturer has agreed a £1.5 billion deal to buy SSL, the owner of condom brand Durex and foot care brand Scholl, in a bid to grow its health and personal care business.

Mark Wickens, founder of branding agency Brandhouse says that while the brands are “complementary” there is “dissonance” from a consumer perspective.

“The question mark over it is how the recently rebranded RB masterbrand applies to the new brands. Would you feel confident buying condoms from a bleach manufacturer?” he asks.

The conflict is between RB’s more functional brands that are marketed with what Wickens calls a “confidence” message and the more emotional nature of the Durex and Scholl brands.

“RB has superb marketers but the SSL brands fit into a different space. SSL has moved Durex away from functional towards enjoyment. I’m not sure how well RB does that.”

Branding experts agree that RB has a more functional approach but Alex Waters, director of branding consultancy Value Engineers, says that RB is already changing that as a result of its innovation agenda.

He cites its recent marketing for hair removal brand Veet as an example of RB taking a more emotional route and positioning the brand above and beyond its functionality.

“RB is very focussed on its innovation agenda and has the resources to grow Durex across categories and create a much bigger footprint in the sexual wellbeing category,” he says.

Wickens warns that it would be a “bad retrograde step” if Durex returned to a purely functional marketing proposition under RB’s control.

Jessica Bower at branding agency Sundance, says: “With brand s like Cillit Bang RB has developed a distinctive tone for how it expresses its brands. It’s an interesting stretch for RB as Durex is quite different to its household brands.”

She adds that because the Durex and Scholl brands aren’t obvious match for RB’s existing portfolio, it will act as inspiration for building the emotional marketing messages around the firm’s other brands.

The deal will also give RB more presence in developing markets where SSL already has a stronghold.

Durex and Scholl will sit alongside RB’s existing stable of brands which spans the home and personal care categories and includes cleaning brand Cillit Bang, Vanish and Dettol as well as personal care brands Clearasil, Veet and Nurofen.

RB has also restructured its marketing teams to bring its household, personal care and healthcare marketing teams together under one marketing director, Stefan Gaa.

Phil Thomas, formerly RB’s personal care marketing director has been promoted to global category director for the global surface care division.

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