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Horlicks or Complan – which is better?

29 December 2008 12,272 views 6 Comments

It is war time.  Brand wars, that is.

Complan and Horlicks have suddenly lit up the Indian Televisions advertising space.  As a result, the LCD screen has become pretty hot.


The battle for supremacy in the health drink segment between two major multi-national brands, Complan and Horlicks.

It is not that we are new to such brand wars.  We have seen such brand wars before.  There was this famous battle for market share between Pepsodent (tooth paste from Hindustan Unilever) and the almost generic name for tooth paste, Colgate.

While we had seen many surrogate comparative advertising (largely between Cola brands, Coke & Pepsi, and to an extent between washing soaps/ powders such as Wheel and Nirma), Pepsodent Vs. Colgate was probably the first direct comparative and aggressive advertising campaign in India  for a health care product.

Colgate went through a tough time when Hindustan Lever (now Hindustan Uniliver) turned the heat on.  The estimated Rs.1.50 billion advertising campaign of HLL resulted in Peposodent capturing a substantial urban market share from Colgate Dental Care.  That was back in 1999.  It took long time for Colgate to get back some of the market share loss and not before legal battles that made HLL tone down the aggressive advertisment campaign.

After almost 10 years, the Complan – Horlicks war has erupted.  I was doing channel surfing when the advertisement of Complan caught my attention.  The advertisement shows two ladies with their sons shopping in a super market and with one of them buying Complan and the other buying Horlicks.

In the conversation between the two ladies, the one taking Complan picks up the Horlicks bottle from the other’s trolley and says “If you notice the ingredients of Horlicks, you will notice that they are very cheap items and goes on to say that Complan is a complete health drink with best ingredients”.

It might have been prompted because of the fact that Complan is priced higher than Horlicks.  I expected Horlicks  (Smithkline Becham Consumer Brands) to attack back.  None could be seen for almost 10 days.

And, today (may be it is on air for a few days) I saw an advertisement in which Horlicks is retaliating with its own claims of better ingredients that makes children not only grow taller but also have better brains :-), besides being cheap in terms of pricing.

But, this retaliation advertisement however, sounded like a very feeble response to me compared to the very aggressive direct attack by Complan.

We have to wait and see how this advertisement war pans out and whether this results in material market share loss for Horlicks.

Watch this video:

You can read the news item about this Complan Vs Horlicks war here and about the vintage Pepsodent Vs. Colgate war here.


  • Ram said:

    Just to inform you that Horlicks first started the direct ad campaign comparing Complan. This prompted Complan to come up with a repartee. This is one way healthy competition, making a direct hit on each others’ product. The product which is actually better in quality will grab the market share from the other.

  • triplicani (author) said:


    Welcome to my blog.

    Thanks for the update. I probably missed that advt. by Horlicks that started this brand war. I will try and see it on the net.

  • shishir said:

    There are 4 types of strategies and we see in horlicks ve complan an example of offensive strategiy.

  • marie said:

    I am a french student and I am studying the GSKCH India’s way of market its products. Don’t you think that in the current situation customers of Complan or Horlicks could be bored of these comparative advertisements ? These agressive campaign could be very bad for both companies ? I will be happy to get your opinion and any informations you could provide.
    thank you !

  • triplicani (author) said:


    Welcome and wish you all success in your studies.

    I cannot speak for all consumers / ad watchers but taking me as a common ad watcher, I can tell you that these comparative ads interest people and do provide an edge at the market place.

    I clearly remember that Unilever’s Pepsodent paste gave Colgate run for its money and grabed a good market share when they tried this comparative advertisement trick. Till then Colgate kind had a Googlish (sway over the tooth paste market.

    While on the subject, I cannot but wonder the way the meaningless word “Google” has become a verb. People talk about googling, say that they googled etc. I heard a dialogue in the movie “Yours, mine and ours” where one of the character says he “googled” to find out about something or someone.

  • rocky said:

    complan or horlicks war is reasoneable ,consumer take best on

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