Unilever, Colgate in bitter battle in India

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BOMBAY -- Colgate-Palmolive (India's) bitter fight with Hindustan Lever for India's toothpaste market, which includes charges of false advertising against the Unilever subsidiary, has turned out to be a bonanza for consumers.

To stem further erosion of market share caused by a relentless Lever campaign for its New Pepsodent toothpaste, Colgate introduced an offer--buy any 100g Colgate toothpaste and get another free. "Buy One, Get One Free!" read the headline in an ad by Rediffusion-Dentsu, Young & Rubicam Advertising.

Not to be outdone, Lever introduced a bolder offer: a free 50g Pepsodent tube if the consumer presents a coupon cut out from an ad via Ammirati Puris Lintas India, Bombay, in The Times of India newspaper. "Get Better Germ Protection. Free" read the headline.

Though the Lever offer was limited to two days in contrast to Colgate's December 31 deadline, the gesture has shown its determination to wrest further ground from Colgate Dental Cream, whose market share fell nearly 3% to 41.9% in the two months since Lever ran ads allegedly disparaging the U.S. brand's germ-fighting abilities. Colgate claims it lost 4.6 million consumers due to the campaign.

Lever's own Pepsodent brand accounted for an 8.4% share in September of the $267 million local toothpaste market, up from 7% in August when the campaign broke. Both Colgate and Lever have filed suits against each other before the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission. The competition watchdog recently ruled that Lever discontinue referring indirectly to Colgate in its ads till a final judgment slated for early next year.

Copyright December 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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