Colgate’s Total coup

The future looks shiny and bright for Colgate Total, the anti-bacterial toothpaste launched in Canada by Colgate-Palmolive in September.Late last month, the Canadian Dental Association awarded its seal of approval to Total in recognition of the brand's effectiveness in fighting gingivitis,...

The future looks shiny and bright for Colgate Total, the anti-bacterial toothpaste launched in Canada by Colgate-Palmolive in September.

Late last month, the Canadian Dental Association awarded its seal of approval to Total in recognition of the brand’s effectiveness in fighting gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums caused by plaque above the gumline.

Winning the seal represents a major coup because the Canadian Dental Association has not created a new seal since it established one for fluoride more than 30 years ago.

Colgate, which is based in Toronto, will immediately begin printing the Canadian Dental Association seal on Total’s packaging.

And while it has yet to announce plans to do so, it could at any time use the highly respected seal to pump up Total’s brand image in product advertising.

As if that were not enough, Total received even bigger news just two weeks later.

On April 8, the Health Protection Branch of Health and Welfare Canada recognized the toothpaste’s ability to fight bacterial buildup between brushings for up to 12 hours.

Total’s ability to combat bacteria, which can cause plaque, tartar, cavities and gum problems, derives from an ingredient called triclosan.

At the time of the Total product launch, Colgate had already won approval to advertise the fact that triclosan effectively counters bacteria, but it had yet to convince the government’s health regulators that its research and development department had also found a way to bond triclosan to teeth for long periods of time using a bonding agent called gantrez.

Consequently, Colgate was prevented from positioning Total as a long-lasting anti-bacterial toothpaste, the positioning it was hoping, ultimately, to establish for the brand.

But that stumbling block has been removed, and the company is today launching a 30-second tv spot, focussing on the long-lasting benefit, which will run on and off for the remainder of the year.

Carolyn O’Beirn, Colgate’s category manager for oral care products, says the spot, produced by the Toronto office of Young & Rubicam, focusses on conveying Total’s ‘ability to keep working for up to 12 hours.’

O’Beirn adds that because of Colgate’s interest in establishing Total’s long-lasting positioning, the company did not include information in the spot about the newly won Canadian Dental Association seal of approval.

According to O’Beirn, Total has performed strongly in the hard-fought toothpaste category since its launch, already capturing 10% of overall Colgate brand sales.

Now that Colgate is able to complement advertising of the brand’s anti-bacterial product benefit with information about its long-lasting product benefit, the company projects Total’s share of overall Colgate brand sales could climb as high as 24%.

Total’s retail price is 25% higher on average than regular Colgate, so any share increase translates directly into a strong revenue gain, even if, overall, Colgate brand unit sales remain stable.

The Canadian launch of Total, which created a new segment in the toothpaste category, the anti-bacterial segment, took place about three years after Colgate debuted the brand in Australia.

It is now sold in about 40 countries.

In January, Colgate’s chief toothpaste rival in Canada, Procter & Gamble, introduced an anti-bacterial brand of its own, Crest Ultra.

But p&g has yet to prove to the Health Protection Branch that Ultra is effective in combating bacterial buildup, so the company has been limited in its marketing efforts.

Canadians spend about $100 million annually on toothpaste products.