DEN-MAT OPENS HUNT FOR AGENCY TO POLISH ITS REMBRANDT BRAND: RIVAL TOOTHPASTES SNAG SHARE OF ITS WHITENING NICHE

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Den-Mat Corp. is shopping for a new ad agency, after having split with Carlson & Partners, New York, last month.

Den-Mat, which markets the Rembrandt whitening toothpaste and mouthwash, will spend $20 million in a new fall campaign, according to executives close to the company.

Last year Den-Mat spent $14.5 million in measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting. The review is being handled in-house; company officials declined to comment.

SALES DROPPING

Rembrandt's next campaign will have to help reverse a drop in sales that has taken the brand from a high of 3.5% of the $1.62 billion market in 1997 to 2.3% at the end of March 1999, according to Information Resources Inc.

Rembrandt is one of many specialty brands trying to take a bite out of the toothpaste market lorded over by Procter & Gamble Co. and Colgate-Palmolive Co. Colgate and P&G's Crest brands together make up 53% of the market, while a dozen other brands take the rest.

Until the 1990s, whitening toothpaste was a category of one-Carter-Wallace's venerable Pearl Drops brand. The only other options were bleaching kits that used mouthpieces to soak teeth in bleaching solutions. When Rembrandt entered the market, it found baby boomers were willing to pay $8 or more a tube for a toothpaste to whiten their teeth.

But while the aging boomers helped the whitening category grow, Rembrandt lost ground recently to mass-market brands that added whitening versions. Nearly every toothpaste brand, including Crest and Colgate, now has a whitening extension. Colgate's year-old Total line is expected to add a whitening extension shortly.

REFOCUSING MESSAGE

"They've basically stolen Rembrandt's niche . . . they had a unique selling proposition," said Ken Harris, partner at consultancy Cannondale Associates.

He said Rembrandt needs to refocus its message to spell out clearly why it's different from the lower-priced extensions of well-known brands.

"They have a problem," said Mr. Harris. "They need to move very fast to re-

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