Oral hygiene in the hinterlands Colgate Colgate. The world’s most recognizable oral care brand, it belongs to the Colgate-Palmolive Company. Colgate was the first toothpaste in a collapsible tube, introduced in 1896. It is a worldwide household name and synonymous with the product itself in various regions. Colgate-Palmolive has its presence in about 200 countries. Colgate in India Present in India since the 1930s, Colgate is almost synonymous with toothpaste in the Indian market. It is accepted well both in the rural and urban areas.
It has been ranked as the 17th most trusted brand in India by The Brand Trust Report.
Brand and Market Share Colgate is the market leader in oral care business in India, and by some distance. Colgate leads the sector with a whopping 53% market share. HUL, who sell under the brand name ‘Pepsodent’, is a distant second with 22%. The other major player in the market is Dabur. Going to the hinterlands The rural market Having taken the urban market, the rural market was the next logical destination for Colgate.
Yet, it was not just logical but a potentially rewarding one too. Over 70% of India lived in villages and oral dental care products were yet to reach there.
If there ever was a latent market, this was it. As with every reward, the rural market posed its challenges too. * Many people in India still used traditional products like neem twig, salt, ash, tobacco and herbal products. * The red and black toothpowder still accounted for 35% of the tooth powder market.
* The rural audience was heavily scattered. India’s diversity resided in its villages: Innumerable cultures, subcultures, languages, dialects, etc. * The awareness on oral health products was very low. * Most of rural India was media-dark. Traditional media did not reach many of India’s villages. Strategy
Colgate’s rural promotional and advertising program was launched under the name of ‘Sampark’ meaning ‘Communication’. Sampark had three main objectives: 1. Explore presence of media at different levels: It focused on identifying and making use of pre-existing media and promotional machinery that was prevalent in localized rural parts of India, viz. , Weekly bazaars, Haats, Jatras, Festivals, etc. 2. Assess characteristics of the rural market by collecting region-specific consumer profiles Analyze the different consumer profiles that existed in rural markets pertaining to age, social status, financial capability, beliefs and preferences.
Example: a) Older Generation: Misri user (traditional ground tobacco) b) Middle Aged: Tooth powder user c) Younger generation: Toothpaste user 3. To design, communicate, motivate the audience to buy the product Sampark had limited budget at its disposal. Going in for mass media would not prove to be costly but the reach would be limited as, still only very few people owned & possessed a TV or a radio. i) Door to door selling: Sampark wanted something that had far & wide reach. Hence, Colgate chose door to door selling. ii) Right people for the right job: Sampark hired people locally who knew the local language, jargons & idioms.
This not only helped Colgate communicate easily with the consumer but was also effective in sending the right message across to the rural consumer. These people would move about in the villages telling people about the pros of using advanced oral care products & the cons involved in using traditional oral care products. This was quite difficult as rural people felt that natural products were the best. iii) Training the Salesmen: Colgate trained salesmen to convince the rural population and make them try samples that Colgate was distributing free. v) AV vans: The next best option that Sampark choose after door to door selling was publicity vans, also called A/V vans. Seventy promotional vans did the rounds of the country & educated rural folks on oral hygiene products such as toothpaste, toothpowder & toothbrushes. These vans used to travel from village to village & depending upon the day of the weekly market in that specific village. These vans also did a number of other activities at a time such as spot selling, sampling and retailing. The vans used to be parked in strategic locations. They were highly decorated so as to get more eyes turned & in the process educate the rural folk.
The roving Colgate vans, after screening a 22 minute film on oral hygiene that explained how to use the product, offered sampling at stalls setup near the van. 60% of the towns were covered by Colgate with their own distribution channels. The remaining 40 percent was covered by other distributors. v) Puppet shows: There were puppet shows done in the villages educating the villagers about the plus points of using modern oral hygiene products. vi) Educational films: Educational films were also shown in between movies in theatres. These were usually 10-40 seconds long.
They feature either actors, local lenders or a farmer that was like one of them. Later on, after the movie ended free samples were distributed to the audience. These tactics were also used in Haats & Melas throughout the length & breadth of the country. vii) Teacher training programmes: It was an integral part of the School Dental Health Program, conducted regularly across the country to promote preventive dental health care. viii) Oral health educational programme: The Colgate Rural Initiative was targeted at rural areas of population between thirty and hundred thousand.
The dental checkup camps were supervised by dentists. The organizers interacted with over 1 lakh people teaching them the benefits of oral hygiene. Conclusion: Post the saturation of its urban market, Colgate had to find new markets. Rural market was the logical next step. Finding that usual promotional and distributional channels shall not work in rural India, Colgate explored niche rural channels to raise awareness on both oral hygiene and the product. Colgate’s ultimate success bears testimony to their strategy which stands as a guiding lesson in approaching newer markets.