For those who don’t follow the oral care category with any great diligence, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that Colgate has had the blogosphere buzzing this week, with bloggers and tweeters from around the world focusing to the world of toothpaste and toothbrushes.
So what’s the secret? How has Colgate managed to put oral care into the headlines? Fortunately for the brand’s owners, this buzz hasn’t come from a product recall, management scandal or general anarchy: it stems from Colgate’s announcement of a partnership with young British boy-band sensation One Direction (1-D to fans).
Starting next month, Colgate will introduce One Direction-licensed products to its MaxFresh toothbrushes and toothpaste in the US. But is this a bold, fresh move by a category leader, or simply an opportunistic exploitation of the latest craze?
There’s no question that the partnership benefits One Direction – after all, in a world where the Spice Girls could simultaneously endorse Polaroid, ASDA, Impulse and the Poppy Appeal, among others, there’s little to stop a hot property going cross-category. I imagine that their decision was at least 90% commercially motivated: although I wouldn’t want to suggest a short shelf life, the temptation to exploit any and every licensing opportunity must be present for the boys.
For Colgate, the rationale is slightly more fluid. Yes, I’d expect to see a short-term spike in sales, accompanied by some gain in market share as tweenage girls exploit their much-vaunted pester power to get Colgate into shopping baskets. Equally, there will almost certainly be a halo effect for the brand, as grateful parents jump on anything they think will encourage their DDs and DSs (‘Darling Daughters’ and ‘Darling Sons’, to quote Mumsnetters) to spend more time on their teeth. Equally, there’s probably some good PR in the concept of Colgate championing anything that encourages kids’ oral health and oral care.
So some clear short-term advantages – but from an observer’s perspective, nothing to show long-term benefit to the brand’s core values and positioning of a level to justify the imagined level of investment required to buy into Simon Cowell’s latest project.
The deeply worrying thing would be if the 1-D tie-up signalled a move by Colgate towards a continual stream of licensed products, introduced at the expense of real brand strategy anchored in compelling audience insight.
The final verdict? – A move that will be greeted by minor raptures by most females under the age of 13, and by cautious encouragement from their parents, but not a game-changer in a category that, frankly, is wide open for just that. Come on, Colgate!