As Colgate Talks About Saving Water, Upstart Livionex Claims Better Toothpaste

LivFree Cites Test Showing It Is 2.5 Times More Effective Than Colgate Total

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Startup dental gel marketer Livionex is launching its first advertising, just ahead of when big rival Colgate will air its first Super Bowl ad. And while the company's CEO Amit Goswamy said the timing is coincidental, he doesn't mind launching very benefit-focused ads at a time Colgate is talking about saving water in its Super Bowl ad.

"If I were a health-care product, I would be saying this is the benefit of my product," Mr. Goswamy said. "If you have to say 'go save water,' that says volumes in terms of what it's not saying. The silence about product benefit is deafening."

In the in-house created ad, Mr. Goswamy says Livionex, which is being rebranded as LivFree, is 2.5 times more effective than any toothpaste. That's based on a study done in 2014 at the University of California-Irvine that compared the dental gel to Colgate Total for reduction in plaque, gingivitis and gum bleeding. Colgate Total reduced plaque by about 30% in the study vs. 90% for Livionex, he said.

Colgate-Palmolive Co. declined to comment.

LivFree works differently than toothpaste, breaking up the chemical bond between plaque biofilm and teeth rather than trying to kill bacteria or scrub it away, Mr. Goswamy said. It also costs a lot more -- $20 for a 1.7-ounce tube, which he said is worth it given the potential to prevent widespread periodontal disease.

Livionex is a small threat to big players for now, with sales of $3 million last year and expectations of $13 million this year. Annually, $2.7 billion worth of toothpaste is sold in U.S. stores measured by Nielsen data from Deutsche Bank. But Mr. Goswamy said repeat rates are better than 60% for customers buying at or through dentists. And after relying mainly on PR, media coverage and word of mouth, he's ready to move into offline stores and advertising.

But given limited distribution and price, he's starting small and upscale on the ad buy, with 30-second ads on CNN, Fox Business, CNN Airport and 2-minute in-flight ads on American Airlines.

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