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Even before the Mentadent Oral Care toothbrush turned up on store shelves in late 1995, consumers were already thinking twice about what they put in their mouths.

Earlier "advanced" entrants into what has evolved into a $611 million market had drilled shoppers on the benefits of cleaner teeth; Chesebrough-Pond's did its rivals one better, promising healthy teeth and gums via its high-end product.

The Mentadent toothbrush, designed to look like a serious medical instrument, also drew strength from Chesebrough-Pond's "Masterbrand" strategy, which positions all products in the line as components of a complete oral-care authority.

"We empowered consumers to take care of their teeth and gums," says Natalie Danysh, VP-marketing, of the Mentadent Masterbrand. "We got people to think differently about cleaning."

So many consumers wanted a toothbrush with flared side bristles-the gum masseuses-that advertising from Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, had to be pulled in February 1996 when initial demand exceeded supply.

Eventually, capacity caught up, and the Mentadent Oral Care brush has retained its No. 4 spot in the toothbrush category and an 8% share in a market where "all the growth is in the premium segment," Ms. Danysh notes.

Meanwhile, the toothbrush's ad spending stands at about $14 million, about the same as at launch.

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