50% of Israelis might benefit from Head & Shoulders, but a huge chunk of that potential market didn't even realise they needed it.
The fact is that half of Israelis will suffer from dandruff at one point or another in their lives, creating huge headroom for Head & Shoulders.
But many people don’t buy H&S when they get dandruff, because they don’t actually know they have dandruff – and their friends are too embarrassed to tell them.
H&S’s global solution to this conundrum, which was found in many markets, was to develop a new kind of dandruff self-test: a black strip that could be held to the scalp for a few seconds to see how much dandruff it picks up.
The global strategy, developed by the global H&S brand team, was to distribute the self-test strip with print.
MediaCom's concern was that such a strategy wouldn’t be effective in Israel. Most of the target market would simply turn the page. After all, why would you even think about using a test strip if you didn’t think you had dandruff in the first place?
It needed a more local solution.
The agency created a new mechanism: "Divine sampling".
It knew that, while 50% of Israelis might need Head & Shoulders at any time, many of them didn’t know that was the case.
The key to making them realise that they did was to create a moment of introspection and cleaning; a moment when they would honestly look in the metaphorical mirror and acknowledge the white flakes in their hair.
And it realised that Israelis already had just such a national moment – the Jewish holiday of Passover – even if this moment of honesty involved crumbs of bread rather than flakes of dandruff.
When the Egyptian Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they were not able to wait for bread dough to rise.
In commemoration, no bread is eaten during Passover. In fact, even the tiniest crumb hiding in a dark corner of the house is believed to leave its occupants exposed to divine punishment.
The tradition is that everyone conducts a formal search of the house by candlelight, disposing of any “UnKosher” or “Chametz” elements.
MediaCom's strategy was to leverage this national preoccupation with cleanliness as the perfect analogy for the search for flakes of dandruff.
Being dandruff free would become as essential as removing crumbs from the house. Anyone who wanted to be 100% Chametz free would also have to take steps to become 100% dandruff free.
The agency created a new mechanism for divine sampling.
H&S became the first brand distributed in synagogues.
The agency bought the entire national stock of Passover kits from the sole supplier; a quarter of a million packs containing a candle, a feather and a dustpan used to symbolically locate, swipe and remove any tiny suspicious objects.
It branded each kit with the Head & Shoulders logo and added dandruff testing strips, so that the search for unwanted objects would also now encompass flakes of dandruff.
In previous years, these Passover kits could only be purchased at supermarkets and grocery stores, but this made them much more widely available.
MediaCom arranged for them to be distributed via synagogues instead – a first for a brand. Because the Passover kit also contained the text of the prayer that accompanies the tradition, this was deemed acceptable and not overly commercial.
It even set up a H&S hotline that people in need – the handicapped and the elderly – could call and get their homes inspected for them.
This activity was supported by heavy print activity and extensive PR across all major media outlets driving awareness, interest and involvement.
Sales soared. H&S’s market share grew by 35% year-on-year.
The agency didn’t simply replicate the global strategy to distribute the test strips through print. By ensuring both the means of distribution and the context of the message were culturally relevant, consumer receptivity to the message was significantly higher.
The activity earned $130,000 worth of media coverage for our activity. There were dozens of calls to the hotline number, which also helped drive PR coverage and featured prominently in the print ads.
The 250,000 Passover kits were all distributed, ensuring that the test strips reached the homes that need them.
P&G plans to repeat the H&S Passover programme in 2016, with plans to replace the candle with a branded mobile flashlight app.