Do you know your dentist’s brand preference?

Have you seen the Colgate toothbrush advertisement on television with dentists telling us that Colgate is the toothbrush most dentists use?

Now I couldn’t care less which toothbrush my or any other dentist uses. But there’s something wrong with this commercial. And looks like it’s everything.

Let’s begin with the strategy: what is the ad trying to position the product as? A toothbrush dentists use. But isn’t that already taken? Oral B already occupies the seat of “the toothbrush dentists use themselves” in our minds. So what is Colgate trying to achieve with this attempt at occupying this unavailable position? Beats me. Add to that the fact that the moment you decide to do a me-too campaign trying to position yourself in a spot your competitor already is occupying, it is to be taken for granted that the prospect would inevitably be comparing your communication with your competitor’s, and the odds are it would not be favourable towards you. You are, after all, copying your competitor’s idea.

Oral-B, in its ads, uses Rob the dentist, whose face is always hidden, to stand for all dentists that supposedly use Oral-B toothbrushes. Their commercials even state clearly that they can’t show the face of the ‘dentist’ because he is a real dentist (rather than a paid actor). This makes it believable. Sure on the cognitive level, the prospect would think that it is obviously staged since it is an advertisement. But on an affective level, the claim that it is a real dentist seems believable (Why else would they not show his face?)

Here Colgate falter. They show the faces of their dentists, smiling, holding the brush and talking to camera selling the product. Can medical professionals appear in paid communication endorsing products? I don’t think so. These are paid actors. And it is evident. We have seen these actors in other commercials. Yes sir, Colgate has come out as a liar, trying to pass off actors as dentists. What good would the certification from the dental association be if you are undermining your own credibility this way? Sure all ads use paid actors and we know that, and sure all oral care ads have shown actors dressed as dentists, but did those ‘dentists’ directly promote any brand (as opposed to just educating you about dental hygiene) on the basis that the community of dentists (which is real, rather than the fictional character the dentist in the ad is) prefer. That is a serious claim!

And in the end, what is happening to copywriters? Lines like “अगर स्वस्थ मुंह चाहिए तो कुछ और क्यूं?” (why anything else if you want a healthy mouth?) and “मैं कोलगेट की सलाह देता हूं क्योंकि यही इस्तेमाल करता हूं, और बाकी डेंटिस्ट्स भी इसी की सलाह देते हैं (I recommend Colgate because I use it, and rest of the dentists also recommend it) are only weakening an already doomed campaign.

I think the folks at Gillette should be celebrating the way Pepsi folks were celebrating way back at the launch of New Coke. To make the market leader forget their strategy and instead launch a me-too campaign based on your positioning is a compliment to the marketing department of your company. The Oral-B strategy is just right, now if only they stick to it and not let themselves squander based on “country-based research-based strategy”.

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