Colgate: Black is the new White

By Satrajit Sen , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital
Last updated : August 14, 2014
The objective of the campaign was to create disruption, leveraging the colour black and create conversations around a low involvement category like toothbrushes.

The world is not black and white, but it is not grey either. Vivid colours define our daily lives. But imagine how would one feel if, one day, everything turns black. Colgate's recent activity created a similar experience.

Colgate SlimSoft Charcoal Toothbrush

To launch its SlimSoft Charcoal toothbrush with black bristles, Colgate engaged marketers, bloggers and the media with a direct mailing activity. Through the three-day campaign, the 'key opinion leaders' received a black item everyday. On Day One, it was a black paper mug and a chocolate within a 'black egg'. On Day Two, came a 12-page 'WhatTheBlack Times'. Page 1 and 12 had fictional stories, while the rest promoted the website These daily items were sent out on different days without any mention of Colgate or the toothbrush.

On the last day, the brand was revealed with a message that one's toothbrush has now turned black as well. All the campaign elements were tagged with the #whattheblack to amplify visibility on digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogs.

The campaign that was initially targeted at 200 people reached 23.8 million consumers, according to Colgate. The 'black items' were sent to people in key metros. The campaign was conceptualized by Red Fuse Communications, WPP's full-service integrated global agency dedicated to serving all of Colgate-Palmolive's brands worldwide. The campaign was executed by Candid Marketing.

The new toothbrush comes with black bristles infused with real charcoal. It has bristle tips that are slimmer than rounded bristles by one-seventeenth. They help remove plaque and bacteria, claims the company. Since toothbrush is a low involvement category and most users don't remember the brand name, the campaign intended to generate curiosity and intrigue among the target group.

Speaking to afaqs!, a Colgate spokesperson states that the concept of word-of-mouth has been non-existential in this category. "Colgate SlimSoft Charcoal is a first of its kind toothbrush and presented Colgate with an opportunity of creating brand visibility and advocacy through disruptive communication techniques," he adds.

The objective of the campaign, states the company, was to create schema disruption, leveraging the colour black. This was achieved by turning everyday white items - such as eggs, newspapers and tissues - black. "A black bristled toothbrush is both extraordinary and unexpected. So are black eggs, black newspapers and black tissue papers. The aim here was to create an element of surprise by amazing the target audience with these items, ultimately revealing the black-bristled Colgate SlimSoft Charcoal toothbrush," says Shubha George, CEO India, Red Fuse.

"The challenge," recalls Amrita Kumar, managing partner, Candid Marketing, "was to present real everyday 'white' items as 'black'. We experimented with vanilla ice cream and white mint. As we assessed available options, we finally zeroed in on daily items such as eggs, newspapers, tissue papers and paper cups. It was critical to ensure that all the items were delivered simultaneously to the KOLs across the country, in order to reveal the toothbrush on the final day." The toothbrush market in India is worth Rs 1,000 crore. With this campaign, Colgate wants to increase its present market share of 43.6 per cent.

First Published : August 14, 2014
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