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Colgate Palmolive Company The Precision Toothbrush

Solution Id Length Case Author Case Publisher
2674 1402 Words (7 Pages) Nathalie Laidler Harvard Business School : 593064
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From the 1980s, toothbrush products started to be bought based on the performance benefits. This increased the product lines in the toothbrush category, and there was toothbrush introduced with change in bristles, and head sizes. In 1990s there were “super-premium” brushes introduced which had higher margins. On them, there were higher marketing expenses, and “two-for-one” promotions were launched. This resulted in higher sales in 1991 and 1992, and the sales in 1993 were, hence, low. The toothbrush was segmented into professional and value categories. CP was in the professional category. The consumer behavior of toothbrush consumers was further segmented into 3 categories based on the involvement of the consumer in the oral hygiene. Moreover, toothbrushes had higher profit margins than toothpaste. Colgate Palmolive was launching new precision technology and had to make the decision between positioning it as a niche or a mainstream product. The decision has multiple aspects to it, with both the options having their own pros and cons.

Following questions are answered in this case study solution:

  1. What changes are occurring in the toothbrush category? Assess Colgate-Palmolive’s competitive position.

  2. How is the toothbrush market segmented? Compare consumer behavior for toothbrushes and toothpaste.

  3. What are the arguments for launching Precision as (a) a niche product and (b) a mainstream brand?

  4. What marketing recommendations would you make to Steinberg?

Case Study Questions Answers

1. What changes are occurring in the toothbrush category? Assess Colgate-Palmolive’s competitive position.

Changes in the toothbrush category. 

Till the 1970s, toothbrushes were a commodity and were purchased at the price point. However, around the 1980s, new product launches were made, and the focus shifted on performance benefits as the purchase criteria. In 1991 the market of the toothbrush category started saturated with 47 new product lines. Since 1987, the toothbrush market has been expanding at an average rate of 9.3%; however, in 1992, it had significant growth, growing by 21% in value and 18% in volume. Additionally, 49% more media coverage and 48% more coupons were distributed. The focus of the consumers was towards category, and they had increased their purchase frequency. In 1992 the high-margin players had started to focus towards advertising the features of the toothbrush and the in-store promotional material. Dollar growth exceeded the volume growth in this period due to the introduction of the new “super-premium” subcategory, partly offset by a decreased margin in the mass-merchandiser category and due to the sales increase in the private label toothbrushes. In 1993 the growth in unit sales was low due to increased focus on advertisement and “two-for-one” offers. 

Colgate Palmolive’s Competitive position.

In the 1980s, the category of the toothbrushes was divided into value and professional. The professional was focused towards high-priced toothbrushes. Colgate Palmolive was in the professional category of toothbrushes. The value category was being given lesser significance over time by companies since the consumer focus had shifted towards performance benefits of the product and believed that the professional category toothbrushes were more reliable in providing the desired performance benefits. Brands like Oral-B, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Smithkline Beecham had also introduced their own super-premium toothbrushes against which Colgate Palmolive competed. 

2. How is the toothbrush market segmented? Compare consumer behavior for toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Segmentation of toothbrush category:

The toothbrush category is segmented into professional (high-priced) and value toothbrush categories. In it, the professional toothbrush category can be segmented based on feature, benefit, reason, tagline, launch date, and number of SKUs. There were 4-5 main players during the 1990s, including Oral-B, JOHNSON & JOHNSON, Procter and Gamble, Smithkline Beecham, and CP. The consumer behavior of toothbrush consumers can be segmented according to their involvement in oral hygiene. There were 3 categories according to this: involved oral health consumers – therapeutic brushers, involved oral health consumers – cosmetic brushers, and uninvolved oral health consumers. Oral-B Angle and Oral-B regular are the top competitors in the first category, followed by Colgate Plus and Reach. Colgate Classic and Oral-B Regular were the two most popular toothbrushes in the second category, with Colgate Plus and Oral-B Angle coming in second and third, respectively. In the third category, Colgate Classic and Oral-B Regular were the most popular toothbrushes, followed by Colgate Plus and Reach.

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