Indian toothpaste market is worth Rs 6000 crores ( Source Business Line) and growing at 20%. Colgate has been the undisputed market leader in this market.. Competitors has been trying to make a dent in the share through almost every strategy listed in marketing textbooks.
It was an unlikely player- Glaxo Smithkline Beecham (GSK ) which really broke into the stronghold of Colgate. GSK in 2010 brought its global dental care brand Sensodyne into the Indian market. The sensitive toothpaste segment was very small and almost unknown to the larger Indian market. Colgate had presence in that niche with its variant Colgate Sensitive.
Sensodyne surprised the market by capturing 10% of the segment within 4 months on launch. The heavy awareness campaign made customers take notice of the brand.The campaign featured " Chill Test " where the customers who had sensitive teeth were asked to tryout chilled products after using Sensodyne. The ads were very convincing and prompted many customers to try Sensodyne.Besides the Above-The -Line ( ATL) promotion, GSK also contacted around 15000 dentists to promote Sensodyne ( Source- TOI). In one year, Sensodyne became a 100 crore brand and the Sensitive toothpaste market was growing at more than 45 % p.a.
Colgate being an agile marketer was not keeping quiet . The brand launched another variant Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief inorder to arrest the growth of the competitor.Both the brands benefited by the growth of the category which has grown to about Rs 500 crore. Sensodyne inched very close to the market-leader and at one point became the leading brand in the sensitive toothpaste category. According to reports, Sensodyne and Colgate Sensitive are now having almost same market share in the category.
Pepsodent from HUL also got into the fray with its variant Pepsodent Expert.While every brand focused on providing relief from sensitive teeth, Pepsodent differentiated by offering ' relief and repair' to the consumer. This move by Pepsodent forced the players to rethink their offerings. In the latest campaign, Sensodyne has added the 'repair' proposition to the brand's positioning thereby achieving points-of-parity with Pepsodent Expert brand.
Sensodyne success can be seen as the success of a specialist brand's fight with a product-line extension. Consumer's view Sensodyne as an expert in the field and hence the claims are more effective compared to the product-line extensions. However, Colgate and Pepsodent were quick enough to retaliate to the entry of Sensodyne albeit with little success.
The fight in the toothpaste segment became more interesting with the launch of Paradontax by GSK. Another specialist brand against bleeding gums. The war has just began.