Global highlight: Unilever's Zhonghua toothpaste

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To transform local toothpaste Zhonghua into a cutting-edge innovator, Unilever developed its first major digital campaign in China, an online contest linked to an unlikely Western tradition: Valentine's Day, which is becoming hugely popular among young, urban Chinese.

The brand's overhaul also includes advertising from Lowe Worldwide, Shanghai, and a gel formula combining mouthwash with tooth protection, a first in China.

Zhonghua is one of China's top three toothpaste brands, after Crest and Colgate, with a 16% market share. But it isn't popular among young consumers.

The Valentine's Day promotion, developed by Tribal DDB, Shanghai, started Jan. 1 and allied Zhonghua with one of China's most popular portals, NetEase. At the brand's microsite,, consumers declared their love publicly in their own words. The most romantic vow, selected by an online vote, was published on NetEase's home page,, on Valentine's Day. The contest spread through cyberspace via viral e-mails, blogs and message boards.

"We found the Zhonghua brand is weak on some attributes [such as] modernity, innovation, appeal to young consumers," said Scott Yuan, brand director for Zhonghua in Shanghai. "The product benefit-fresh breath-is also related to relationships."

The campaign promotes fresh breath, an increasingly common approach for marketers of oral-hygiene products as young Chinese worry about fresh breath as they enter the workforce and begin dating. Many Chinese, particularly in rural areas, lack education about dental hygiene, and China has just 56,000 dentists for 1.3 billion people.
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