When we say Colgate is a global brand, it is by no means a minuscule accomplishment. Started by William Colgate, the brand has been in business for over 200 years and now has managed to spread over 200 countries. The brand is owned by Colgate-Palmolive which owns various other brands such as Darlie, Fabuloso, Hills, Irish Spring, Palmolive, Sanex, Softsoap, Speed Stick, Suavitel, AJAX and Tom’s of Maine as well and is another American multinational consumer products company. The main work of Colgate can be listed as; production, distribution, and supplying of dental hygiene products around the globe.
The company initially started off as a small candle and soap business under William Colgate that in the wake of its success expanded to become a global brand that we all have come to know now. The three core values of the company: caring, global teamwork, and continuous improvement are not only prominent within the products and the work done by the brand but it is also reflecting in the reputation of the brand in every country it has expanded its services to. Of course, not all products and services can be generalised in every country due to the diverse cultural differences and beliefs. Therefore, every product launched undergoes the process of localization to compete against other brands and also to wholly survive as a global entity.
Localisation strategies used to penetrate the Indian market:
- Product innovation: Colgate established its first factory in India in 1957 to make toothpaste for domestic household purposes. Since then, the product has undergone several changes with time. At first, toothpaste was available in jars but later when the company introduced the idea of toothpaste tubes, the whole industry went through a transformation. Since Colgate was the only company that made tube products available to its customers, the attention this brand received was unlike any other at the time. Later, when the company wanted to increase its sales, it did so by combining Indian traditions and values with their products (they adapted this strategy from their previous ventures). They released products like Colgate Vedshakti to resonate their product with the Indian culture through the significance of Ayurveda. Also, with the increasing demand for natural ingredients to be used in the products, Colgate launched a series of natural toothpaste in India and its other 94 markets.
Not only this but the company diversified their approach by manufacturing toothbrushes, tooth powder and mouthwashes. In 2014, Colgate released ‘Colgate SlimSoft Charcoal’ which was India’s first toothbrush with super slim bristles infused with charcoal. No other brands in the competition had released a charcoal-infused product until then and since charcoal-like Ayurveda plays a vital role in the Indian tradition, the line became a successful one for the company.
- Marketing: Colgate was clever to inculcate oral problems in its marketing strategies. The basis of all campaigns was to tackle common oral problems that the audience of a particular demographic faced. Keeping this in mind, Colgate released its revolutionary tagline – ‘kya aapke toothpaste mein namak hai?’ (does your toothpaste have salt in it?) This tagline single-handedly revolutionized the game for all oral and dental brand companies as with this, Colgate released ‘Colgate active salt’ and ‘Colgate active salt neem’. Salt is said to tackle tooth decay, gum bleeding, strengthen the enamel of teeth and reduce swelling and inflammation in gums — and so, this product was a huge success in India as people constantly encountered these oral problems. Alongside this, several articles and research documents were released that supported the marketing tagline of this company’s product which further instilled trust and loyalty within Indian consumers for this brand.
The ‘neem’ variant was a success as neem is known to keep gums healthy and prevent oral diseases like Pyorrhea. No brand had a marketing campaign as strong as Colgate that was backed up by researchers and dentists at the time. To top this up, no brand had combined neem and salt together, making this rarity one of the biggest successful sales that Colgate had bagged till now. Following this trend, Colgate further released several other variants such as Colgate Herbal toothpaste, Colgate active salt and lemon, etc.
- Advertisement campaigns and associations: In India, Colgate specifically targeted the toothache problem as it is common and advertised their product as the solution. Their strategy included engaging the customer through heart-warming stories. In 2019, Colgate launched “smile karo shuru ho jao” in which they launched a series of advertisements celebrating real heroes of optimism.
They signed endorsement deals with Bollywood stars such as Ranveer Singh for Colgate MaxFresh which is targeted especially at the youth. Ranveer Singh at that time was at the peak of his career, and also considered a youth icon. Hence, this association made the sales go through the roof. The company was clever to shoot the advertisement by associating Ranveer’s energy with the fresh energy of the toothpaste that the brand was promoting. Since then, the company has associated itself with some of the most prestigious Bollywood celebrities like Kareena Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Shah Rukh Khan, etc.
Aside from these associations, the company has been able to generate an authentic front by being involved in social causes like partnering with the NGO, ‘Seva Mandir’ in 2013 for educational reforms of marginalized children and ‘Keep India Smiling’ Foundational Scholarship in partnership with ShikshaDaan Foundation among many other. Furthermore, social initiatives are a part of Colgate’s global agenda which it pursued within India by partnering with various NGOs in multiple cities. Colgate announced the “Save Water” campaign in India where it announced that the company’s one-month sales will be given away to their NGO partner- ‘ Water For People — India Trust’ in hopes of making water accessible to citizens within the Birbhum district of West Bengal in 2019.
- Heavy culture inculcation: When Colgate released its neem toothpaste, it noticed a spike within the variant’s sale which the company later utilised to release three different flavours under the neem toothpaste category. The company did this to suit the taste preferences of its Indian consumers. Alongside this, since mouthwash was not a prominent habit in Indians, this was not imposed on the consumer base. Instead, Colgate generated campaigns where the products were advertised in Bollywood and later, well- researched claims by dentists were made to support these habits in their clinics and even on online platforms.
Creating advertisements by using Indian actors and cultural taglines was the biggest culture move that the company used to promote its brand.
- Online growth via social media Localisation: Colgate also focused on its online growth. Their main website was localized in several languages as well as differentiated for each country. They also have an online presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin where they have separate social media accounts for each country. Colgate utilised these platforms to build a dental care support team within India and promoted its products by connecting with social media influencers.
To diversify its consumer base, Colgate launched ‘Colgate Magik’ that encourages children to brush their teeth by making this routine a fun gaming experience for them.
Overall, Colgate has managed to remain India’s most trusted oral hygiene company for years by understanding it’s consumer needs and inculcating their needs in its product and its advertising. A company that remains updated with evolving technology and considers the feedback of its customers can be as successful as Colgate is in India today.
By Pooja Srivastav
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