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Forhan's: Just a cosmetic makeover?

By , agencyfaqs! | In | November 07, 2000
In what is being seen as a half-hearted bid to maintain its feeble grip in the oral care market, Geoffrey Manners has overhauled the packaging of its flagship toothpaste brand Forhan's

agencyfaqs! News Bureau
NEW DELHI, November 7

In what is being seen as a half-hearted bid to maintain its feeble grip in the oral care market, Geoffrey Manners has overhauled the packaging of its flagship toothpaste brand Forhan's. The 'new look' Forhan's is being retailed "with new graphics, fresher colours and in soft-squeeze tubes".

In keeping with the industry trend of launching variants, Forhan's too is now being made available in two variants - Controlled Foam, in an orange pack, and Foaming Feel Fresh Forhan's, in a blue pack. The latter is a mint-flavoured variant. The toothpaste is being sold in 200-gm, 150-gm, 100-gm and 50-gm pack sizes, priced at Rs 48, Rs 35.50, Rs 26 and Rs 14, respectively. As has always been the case with Forhan's, the brand promise is 'gum care'.

There was a time, in the late 1970s, when Forhan's was one of the more-popular toothpaste brands in the country, jostling for mindshare with the likes of Binaca, Vicco, Signal and Kolynos. Of course, even then, Colgate was lording over the market. But that was well before Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL) got aggressive with Close-up and Pepsodent. When the gel revolution hadn't redefined the market.

Industry watchers rightly point out that Forhan's was always slow off the blocks. All through the early 1980s, Forhan's plodded along while rivals were making attempts to do different things. Balsara Hygiene, for instance, launched Promise at around this time, innovatively positioning it around the goodness of clove oil. The consumer bought the claim and Promise quickly picked up a 12 per cent market share. Balsara's low-end Babool too made significant inroads, and the two brands together gave Balsara a market share of approximately 15 per cent in 1987. Forhan's, in contrast, did nothing that could possibly excite the consumer.

However, the fact that Forhan's has been a trifle unlucky too cannot be discounted. The year 1987 was a bad one for Forhan's. Geoffrey Manners was forced to withdraw the brand from the Indian market owing to problems with fluoride formulations. And by the time the brand could worm its way back, HLL had stormed the market with its high-decibel advertising for the relaunched Close-up, targeted at the youth. And with Colgate-Palmolive (CP) responding with Colgate Gel, the gel market had come of age.

Whatever chances Forhan's had of making a resurgence in the dental cream segment were paid put when, in 1993, HLL launched Pepsodent to take on Colgate Dental Cream. Between the two, HLL and CP have, more or less, carved and quartered the toothpaste market - they account for almost 90 per cent of the pie. SmithKline Beecham (Aquafresh), Balsara (Promise and Babool), Dabur (Binaca) and Vicco Laboratories (Vicco Bajradanti) have made their intentions clear by baring their fangs. While P&G (with Crest) and Nirma are waiting in the wings.

Observers are of the opinion that merely repackaging Forhan's will not do Geoffrey Manners much good. The move should be backed by strong marketing initiatives that give the consumer a good reason to switch to Forhan's. "New packaging and a new flavour will just not do. Give the consumer a benefit that she is looking for. Gum care is a good idea, so extensions along this route should be explored," says a source.

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