Total's Eclipe

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The Memo Consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to toothpaste. How could Colgate-Palmolive market Colgate Total-a new toothpaste with an antibacterial ingredient-so people would notice it?

The Discovery Since Colgate Total was already in stores overseas, researchers gathered ads that had worked effectively in Europe, modified the copy (words like "antibacterial" could not be used under Food & Drug Administration rules), and showed them to consumers in the United States. BASES analysts found that people were looking for simplification in their lives. They were tired of picking among toothpastes touting various benefits; a product that said "total" was a relief. And the idea of a "long-lasting" toothpaste set it apart from the rest, the consumers said.

Then, a problem emerged. Colgate learned that Procter & Gamble was testing a new Crest multicare toothpaste in a U.S. market. While the competition's product didn't offer all of the benefits of Total, Colgate worried that consumers wouldn't distinguish between the two. To estimate the potential impact of such competition, Colgate tested Crest's advertising with consumers. The study confirmed earlier findings: Total's "long-lasting" claim was its ace. Advertising had to emphasize that advantage, as well as the other multicare benefits.

The Tactics Young & Rubicam developed three commercials and presented them to focus groups. One spot called "Brushing" was adapted from a commercial that had aired overseas and featured an ordinary clock to illustrate Total's long-lasting benefits. Based on consumer feedback, the clock was modified to tie in with the product more closely. Numerals on the clock face were replaced with Total's five multicare advantages; the hand became a tube of toothpaste. As it swept around the dial, the five benefits disappeared.

Six versions of the "Brushing" ad were created and tested quantitatively by ICON. Subtle differences in each helped Colgate determine which details bolstered brand awareness and product preference. At the same time, Colgate received FDA approval for Total in 1997, five years after it had applied. Not wanting to delay the product launch, the company decided to air one of the "Brushing" commercials, even though it was still in the test phase.

They didn't pick the best one. In quantitative tests, Colgate discovered that two commercials scored higher than the rest, including the one already on television. Both featured a main character who acknowledged an intermittent brushing sound-a significant difference from the on-air spot. In follow-up focus groups, consumers also indicated that visual cues in the two best spots-scenes of people talking closely together, for example-boosted the product's "long-lasting" promise. Colgate changed its strategy, replacing the initial commercial with these stronger executions. A print campaign followed. One ad called Total "The Marathoner of Toothpastes," and ran in health/fitness magazines. The slogan appealed to focus group participants who were physically active.

The Payoff Three months after Total's launch in January 1998, Colgate grabbed the number-one spot in market share for toothpaste-surpassing Crest for the first time since 1968. Fourteen percent of all U.S. households tried Total within the first four months; 27.5 percent purchased it again. That performance continued: By last October, ten months after launch, 21 percent of all U.S. households had tried Total; 43 percent were repeat buyers. The average repeat rate for a product is 29 percent.

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