The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

When You’re Boring, You Spend More …
September 19, 2007, 7:39 am
Filed under: Comment

Watching the paint dry.

I work in an industry that continually argues about the value of branding, creativity, NPD, innovation [etc etc] when the truth of the matter is we’re never going to reach a conclusive answer because each situation is different and they are all influenced by a plethora of constantly changing and evolving external factors.

Saying that, I do believe a pragmatic brand idea [that transcends the category norms] is far more effective [both interms of consumer loyalty and marketing expenditure] than just trying to ‘brainwash’ consumer purchase through a stream of monotonous advertising messages or degrees-of-change product development.

Last year, Colgate toothpaste spent – in the Asia region alone – US$639,520,000 on advertising.


Sure that figure covers every channel of their marketing communication [including the launch of their ‘Halal’ toothpaste – I kid you not] but for such a massive amount of money, you have to ask what it got them.

OK, it got them a fuckload of business as well as a market leader position in pretty much all the region however when you compare that to Apple – who spent just a little over US$14 million across the Asia region – you realise that while their cost/sales base is much, much higher, the focus is on a ‘brainwashing/creation-of-a-routine’ strategy rather than any desire to develop a brand people actively choose to associate with.

Is this such a bad thing?

No … but if you think they could maybe save themselves hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing expenditure by moving the brand into meaning something more than just the ‘condition-of-entry’ CLEAN AND HEALTHY TEETH, then I think it is something that should be at least explored.

Apples and Oranges

Yes … yes … I know Apple and Colgate are dramatically different brands but – and maybe this is my HHCL side showing – I still believe Colgate could develop into something that has some sort of ‘badge value’ to consumers, despite…

1 Being a toothpaste

2 Being a product only the user knows they use – it is not something you can show the masses you use like an iPOD etc  [Then again, shampoo/perfume/lingerie brands have all faced this same problem and some have got around it very successfully]

As I said previously, for me it would be about developing a core [brand] idea that addresses cultural issues not just category ones … because it seems to me that Colgate’s amazing distribution and ad spend [as well as the quality of their product] is the driving force for their massive sales. [Though this is based purely on my personal perception]

Look I am not saying Colgate is a shit brand … I am just saying it is a brand that I believe could be much better.

Lets face it, NIKE make rubber soled shoes … Apple makes technology … Google pulls together information … and yet they have become some of the most well known AND desired brands in the World.

I have always been of the belief that it doesn’t matter what you produce or what category you operate in, there’s always the opportunity to be something that wins peoples hearts and minds as well as their wallets because [in my opinion] a true brand is when it is chosen regardless of competitive spend, heritage, evolution or distribution.

Please don’t think I’m saying advertising is the solution to every business problem because it plainly isn’t … product development, packaging, promotion, distribution [etc]  are all vital components – however when I see a brand that seems over-reliant on distribution and/or consumer routine/apathy, I can’t help but feel they’re not being as effective with their brand and/or marketing expenditure as they could be.

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Northern Planner just used a phrase ”stay close to the money” and I agree with him (as I know you do) but it seems the guys behind Colgates work spend too much time with the sales people because the work smacks of being written for them to ”sell” into the trade and ignoring their customer needs bar the usual category norms.

Lots of companies are like this but given you’re turning one of the worst culprits around (Sony) I believe you when you say you could make Colgate more effective in all areas of their business.

Comment by Pete

thats my boy, kick the fuck out of colgate. if only kc had the guts to run our huggies campaign then everything could have changed. scientists and salesmen have caused more fucking ulcers in adland than any little hitler ceo could ever achieve in 10000 years.

Comment by andy@cynic

I love that phrase by NP and its so true because company salesmen want sales, not self-indulgent ads so if you understand where they are coming from, you can not only embrace it into your thinking [afterall, our job is to help make our clients better businesses] but it also helps sell work that they may otherwise put a stop to.

However, as you rightly say Pete, you do have to balance all this ‘internal need’ with consumer/cultural insight otherwise you’ll end up with work that will work against clients [retail] customers, but not with their actual consumers.

Walmart tells its suppliers that if products don’t have significant innovation they will immediately impose an annual 10% price reduction … so to maintain their sales and profit levels, there is internal pressure to create products [and ads] that are more focused on keeping Walmart happy than looking into the specific needs and wants of their customers, customers.

All this means is that the real definition of consumer choice is basically you get what the retailers want you to have, hahaha! [Dictatorial Democracy?]

Comment by Rob

I can only remember one interesting ad for Colgate, and that was about 12 years ago (I still use that product).

It can be done, it just takes someone to persuade the Colgates and Loreals of this world that they could actually do so much better.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I would just like to point out that I stole the phrase from Marcus.
And it’s basic economics – if you don’t innovate you die.
You’d be amazed at what some people call innovation though.

Comment by NP

Yes I’ve heard you ‘borrowed’ that phrase from our Euro chum NP, ha!

Of course innovation is the foundation for continued business prosperity [though there is an interesting trend in certain niche categories – where the opposite is true] however it seems too many companies feel all they have to do is continually bung out some new product variant and ‘good times’ will continue which [1] just isn’t the case and [2] can actually harm the loyalty of the customer towards the brand.

Comment by Rob

Following on from my previous comment …

I think I read somewhere Colgate are one of the biggest ‘innovators’ [said in the loosest sense of the word] of products in the World.

The problem is they have taken the INNOVATE OR DIE philosophy at its most basic level so ignore things like social ‘needs / wants / cultual changes’ and just turn out any old tat they can.

That’s probably why their “Honey Flavoured Toothpaste” failed so miserably and why they still rely on spending billions of dollars on brainwashing their consumers into buying and using their ‘passive’ products.

Comment by Rob

I wonder if its a case of FMCG boredom? They assume the products are boring so they treat them as such.

Ok, they arent vitally important products. But people like to know their teeth are in good care, surely something interesting cacn be done with that.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I actually don’t think so Mr M … I think it’s more a case of them living in a blinkered World.


Comment by Rob

In the last two years teeth whitening gums as a category has done some great brand works. Be it advertising and communication, activation and engagement progamme, they have managed to steal the show from giants like Colgate, Unilever etc. Something that the marketing heads of CP, Unilever should have thought about long back. True the category is all about white teeth, healthy gums and fresh breathe but innovation, if any, has only been restricted to product development not in their thinking. Ofcourse lot of interesting things can be done but for that they should first have the balls to accept their thinking is mediocre. Am sure, Happydent or Orbit can extend their portfolio from whitening gums to whitening paste and if it happens they’ll eat a large pie of Colgate’s current market share. What will Colgate do then??

Comment by pooR

Good point pooR, some of the ads that ran in India for toothpaste were really great. The one with the ‘lights’ was especially wonderful.

When Wrigley’s repositioned their chewing gum from ‘mouth occupying food’ to ‘dental health’ the effect on the Listerine brand was unbelievably destructive.

Such was their market share loss that they acknowledge this was the single biggest driver of innovation within the company [both interms of product and ‘thinking’] … so I just hope the bods at Unilever, P&G and Colgate react in a similar way should a competitor ever be able to shake the tree a to the point where even their distribution stronghold isn’t enough to ensure continued volumes – even though I think in more ‘developed markets’ this is a big ask.

How are you by the way? Not heard from you in ages, hope all is toptastic.

Comment by Robert

“Winning people’s hearts” Now that is worth waking up each day for. (Just getting in my comments while the PRC lets me on Robs blog)

Comment by Charles Frith

I am fine thank you. Toptastic as always. How have you been?
Yes, I did read about how the move from Wrigley shook Listerine. And it should be a learning lesson for the big daddies. Since most of the ‘experimentation’ is happening in the Asian market, I won’t be surprised if Wrigley’s make a similar move here. Something to seriously think about. Great post.

Comment by pooR

My very rough calculations suggest that Colgate second quarter sales in Asia and Africa combined were $510 million – so that advertising spend is huge.

Comment by John

Sure bloody is John – but that’s because Asia still represents quite an untapped market … hell in some Chinese rural towns, they buy toothpaste interms of ‘one use sample sizes’ and even then only use it for special occasisions.

Bit like most Brits, haha.

PS: I do think your calculations are ‘rough’ because that does seem an inordinately high figure!

PPS: Are you saying that the Chinese Government are letting my blog ‘come through’ these days? How cool … I’ve been ‘accepted’. We need to talk soon, I’ve just had a very interesting conversation with someone who I believe may of pissed you off Charles and would welcome the chance to be your ‘hit man’.

Comment by Rob

where the fuck is marcus these days? you lovers fallen out or is he asleep in his fucking shed?

come back marcus, i need you to liven this place up before we all start jumping off cliffs.

talking of killing myself, im off to the lawyers now. 5 minutes of enjoyment stretched out into 4 fucking painful hours of premium priced conversation.

Comment by andy@cynic

He’s fine Andy … but yes, I do hope he comes back to his ‘spiritual home’ and writes his fucking clever [and sometimes mad] comments on whatever shite I’ve written about that day.

I see Marcus as the Red Bull of blogging … wherever he turns up results in a frenzied spree of blog commenting from all and sundary. I mean that as a compliment but I appreciate I’ve made him sound like some Bernard Manning character that just gets debate by pissing people off. Though in the case of NP that’s true, well when he talks about Boney M it is.

[BTW my Mum voted for Boney M … gawd bless her, what a woman!]

Right, I’m heading home now so can you [ie: Andy] please call me on the mobile as I really want to catch up regarding you-know-who before you’re incommunicado for fuck knows how long 🙂

Comment by Rob

Cut and paste it – doesn’t seem to want to work in the comments.

Comment by John

youre a demanding little queen arent you campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

Ello gov’! Now then, what all this bollocks about tooth paste then, eh? I ain’t going needing any of that shite now, do I? Got me gum! Got me chewing gum aint I? Ain’t got no time for brushing me teeth do busy with the ladies me!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.


Now then, where’s me ciggies. Ah, there they are…..

I don’t need no fucking toothpaste. Nah, fuck that. I don’t eat apples.

If I was this Colgate guy, I would maybe, you know, spend like maybe 3 Million Dollars on teaching a fucking tooth brushing ritual. Rituals are important aren’t they? They wiping your arse or making a fucking cuppa tea. Or something. Wouldn’t fucking need to do any tele ads for that now would yer? Nah. Just need a fucking van, with some fucking clever people in it teaching the fucking ritual of brushing yer teeth or something.

That is, if the people wanna eat fucking apples. Or something.

Comment by Mr Stinky teeth


Comment by Marcus

With Rob back from his honeymoon and Marcus coming back from the blog comment cold, Andy will think this is the best week he’s had in months. On behalf of everyone in NYC, thanks to both of you for making our working environment much more enjoyable. 🙂

Comment by George

Andy, you been behaving like an arse? Again?

Comment by Marcus

That’s not fair Marcus; he’s just being himself 🙂

Comment by George

Who, pray tell, gives a flying toss about what you think Fairy?

Comment by Natural Born Smoker

I really like Colgate.

Comment by The Tooth Fairy

Before anybody asks….I’m a fucking mind reader.

Comment by Natural Born Smoker

i just saw an exhibition of prisoner’s creations/inventions and it seems that colgate is the preferred brand of prisoners when creating pencil cases, lighters and cigarette lighters. perhaps palmolive could use that in the next positioning…

Comment by lauren

How did you know I was going to say that?

Comment by The Tooth Fairy

Shouldn’t the tooth fairy HATE Colgate as it stops her getting teeth because they remain clean and healthy? Just a small point but one that I think is fair making.

It is nice to have Marcus back though as happy as that makes me, I know Andy will be the one who will scream with delight.

[I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult Marcus, but he really does like you. Jesus, this sounds like we’re at school and passing on ‘messages’ between potential lovers!]

Going to bed now … nighty night.

Comment by Rob

Yeah, I made a telescopic ladder out of 2.000 tubes of colgate extra fresh minty.

I am not a number!

Comment by The Prisoner

You’re right Rob, Marcus has only been back 5 minutes and already the tone of comments has gone rather mad. I like it, it gives me a nice, warm feeling; like a comfy blanket being placed gently over me on a cold, cold night.

Comment by George

Just goes to show how much you fucking know about my business doesn’t it Campbell.

I run a LONG TERM business here! Milk teeth are nothing more than “low hanging fruit”, but the bonuses involved in the long term health of adult teeth are considerable.

Now, go to bed. Expect a surprise when you go to brush you’re teeth in the morning.

Comment by The Tooth Fairy

Just seen your tooth fairy observation. Seems a good one to me because if my girls got money for their teeth staying in their mouths, I’d be bankrupt.

Lauren, you really should be a planner with observations like that, or a comedian. Same thing sometimes. 🙂

Comment by George

Word of advice Robert, don’t go to sleep with your head under the pillow. Last time you did that they took your hair and by the sounds of it, if you do it again you’ll be living off soup till your dying day.

Comment by George

I like the Asian market me.

Comment by Natural Born Smoker

This has been a very welcome break, thank you Marcus, I needed that. Don’t be a stranger on this blog anymore, it’s a quieter and less interesting place without you.
Off to save Andy now, wish me luck.

Comment by George

Is it safe?

Comment by laurence olivier

What they need is a drumming gorilla.

Comment by The Innovative Planner

I’ve got my eye on you Brown!

Comment by Mr. Barraclough

Good luck George, I have a feeling you may need it.

Comment by Marcus

stop making it sound like im “love sick” for marcus brown, have you seen him? ive seen serial killers who look cuter. im “mischief sick” for our shed working friend because he helps me make sure this blog doesnt go completely up its own fucking arse.

Comment by andy@cynic

Good to see Uncle Marcus back.

Comment by cRaCk_hEaD

Hello cRaCk_hEaD … you’re right, it is good to see Uncle Marcus back except given I’m older than him, that makes me some sort of Grandfather figure which given I’ve only just got married, makes me feel waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay older than I feel comfortable with, ha!

Nice to hear Andy so happy … but also kind of scary too!

Comment by Robert

Hi John – you’re right, those figures do seen to reflect an enourmous expenditure by Colgate on marketing in the region but as I said, it could be because Asia still represents a fairly large untapped market given many people in the region still don’t use toothpaste as a ritual part of their hygenie program.

Or it could be some Enron type accounting, haha!

Comment by Robert

Robert, you are 1 year older than me. No more, and no less.

Andy, I may have the face of a serial killer, but at least I don’t have the feet of a leper.

Comment by Marcus

Would a leper have feet?

Comment by Rob

see what I did there?

Comment by Tired Old Hack

No … but then I am short sighted. Ahem.

Comment by Robert

Andy steals the feet from lepers?

Comment by John

Andy steals the feet from lepers and the money from business partners, hahaha!

Comment by Robert

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