Patanjali tries to call Colgate's 'bluff' in new ad feat. Baba Ramdev

By Ashee Sharma , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | September 20, 2016
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Baba Ramdev makes a case for his toothpaste brand by taking a dig at Colgate -- through a new ad and a recent tweet. A look at Colgate Cibaca Vedshakti Vs Patanjali Dantkanti.

A tweet by Patanjali's Baba Ramdev went viral on social media a couple of days back. Written, perhaps, in anticipation of the launch of Colgate's new all-herbal and indigenous toothpaste 'Colgate Cibaca Vedshakti', it read: "Colgate used to warn against Indian traditional ways of using salt and coal on teeth. But now, it actively endorses it".

Substantiating his tweet was a collage of an old Colgate toothpaste ad (1985) carrying the above 'warning' against salt and coal, as well as new ones in which model and actor Lara Dutta can be seen endorsing Colgate's Active Salt and Colgate Total Charcoal Deep Clean toothpaste brands.


While Patanjali Ayurved's annual revenues of Rs 2,000 (FY '15) crore and Rs 5,000 crore (FY '16) are numbers that need to be put in perspective for a layman, the success of its toothpaste brand Dantkanti can be gauged by the fact that an established brand such as Colgate, the market leader in the toothpaste segment with over 50 per cent share, has stepped up its game, and is in for an image overhaul.


It appears as though Colgate Palmolive India is feeling the heat of the 'natural' revolution ushered in by Patanjali Ayurved. The personal and oral care giant has launched a new all-herbal and indigenous toothpaste under the Cibaca brand, arguably to fend off competition by Patanjali Dantkanti. With clove, basil, lemon, camphor, Eucalyptus and Thymol, the product not only has a formulation very Indian, but also quite an Indian name -- 'Colgate Cibaca Vedshakti'.

Without losing much time, Colgate also came up with a print ad for Vedshakti which appeared in Rajasthan Patrika last Monday. The tagline was 'Kudrat Ka Saath, Swastha Aur Surakshit Daant'.

The new product is priced at Rs 50 for a 175 gm pack, almost 30 per cent cheaper than Patanjali Dantkanti (Regular), which is available in 100 gm packs of Rs 40, and Rs 75 for the 200 gm pack -- a clear reason for Patanjali to be perturbed.

Although such flip-flop in strategy on the part of multinational companies trying to model their offerings based on the preferences and cultural sensibilities of different markets is not a novel phenomenon, Patanjali's passionate 'no-fee brand ambassador' Baba Ramdev seems to be quite unhappy about it. In fact, he is not only calling out 'bluff' on a personal medium such as Twitter, but the brand is also running an ad campaign for Dantkanti Advanced on television.

The TVC, created by Patanjali's agency Vermillion Communications accuses "toothpaste selling multinational corporations" of once perpetrating fear about natural products by dubbing their use as harmful and an uncivilised practice. The ad appeals to consumers to not fall for their gimmicks and "emotional blackmailing" in the name of salt, tulsi, and charcoal variants, but instead, choose Dantkanti Advanced.

The use of red and blue dummy packs in the ad is a clear allusion to Colgate, as is the mention of tulsi (Basil), which is one of the ingredients in Colgate Cibaca Vedshakti.

Well, this is not the first time Colgate has been accused of such gimmicks. The brand also drew flak on social media when it launched Colgate Total Charcoal Deep Clean last year with brand ambassador (Lara) Dutta. People cited an old Colgate TVC in which the brand had claimed that charcoal and similar abrasive products can damage tooth enamel.

While neither the above TVC, nor the 1985 print ad that Baba Ramdev tweeted are available for reference, the generation that grew up watching Doordarshan during the 1980s will surely remember the Colgate ad, in which a woman taunts her bodybuilder brother-in-law with 'Arre wah Devarji, badan ke liye doodh-badaam, aur daaton ke liye koyla?' when he asks her to get some almond milk and charcoal (koyla).

The situation is similar this time as well, and Colgate is fielding the unpleasant question with the response in the picture below.

According to a report by ICICI Securities, Patanjali's entry has disrupted the toothpaste category in India, denting Colgate's market share by approximately 150 basis points from 57.2 per cent in 2015 to 55.7 per cent in March 2016. However, a second report by Edelweiss Securities points out that other herbal player Dabur could also have contributed to the decline. When Colgate's volume growth had slowed down to a low single digit, Dabur's oral care portfolio was clocking double digit growth, it said.

Vijay Udasi

The above findings are also corroborated by Nielsen's analysis across five prominent personal care categories which indicate that the natural segment now constitutes about a third of total sales, and is growing at 2.5 times of non-naturals in India. Vijay Udasi, senior vice president, Nielsen India, shares, "Consumer packaged goods offering basic natural proposition are performing well in the Indian market. Local companies of Indian origin are growing in double digits and are fueling the growth of the segment in the country.Global brands that contribute to 20 per cent of the natural segment are growing in low single digits."

It was to fend off this competition in the natural segment that Colgate introduced Colgate Sensitive Clove and Colgate Cibaca Vedshakti, the latter being targetted at the masses.

Harish Bijoor

Harish Bijoor, brand expert and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., a brand consultancy, calls Colgate's strategy to go completely herbal under the Cibaca brand a good one. "Cibaca and Binaca are two oral care brands that Indians have grown up with," he says.

Cibaca, the Indian oral hygiene brand, was originally owned by Ciba Geigy. It was bought by Colgate in 1994, and re-launched as the All New Cibaca Top in 2000. The brand is strong in rural India.

As per the report by ICICI Securities, the rural population accounts for approximately 35 per cent toothpaste revenue for Colgate Palmolive India. However, there is still huge opportunity for brands in rural markets where overall toothpaste penetration stood at just 74.1 per cent in 2014, as opposed to 92.3 per cent the same year in urban India.

Further, various reports peg Patanjali's market share at 4.5-5 per cent and Colgate's share in the natural segment, where it is present with Colgate Active Salt, Active Salt Neem, and Active Salt Healthy White Toothpaste, at 7 per cent. The competition is pretty close.

Patanjali's Dantkanti claims to have generated business worth Rs 450 crore in the last fiscal (FY '15-'16). Currently, four variants, namely, Dantkanti Regular (13 herbs), Dantkanti Advanced (26 herbs), Patanjali Medicated Gel, and Patanjali Junior are available in the market in three lakh outlets, informs S K Gupta Tijarawala, Patanjali spokesperson and CEO, Combine Advertising.

Experts believe that given its strong brand equity and a formidable distribution network covering over five million outlets, Colgate will have an edge over Patanjali. With Cibaca Vedshakti, it may even win the price war.

Rajeev Sharma

Rajeev Sharma, CEO, Ormax Rhodium, and ex-national head of planning and strategy at Leo Burnett, has a piece of advice for Patanjali.

Sharma believes that Baba Ramdev has brought a credible and popular voice of authority to the ayurvedic segment for the first time, thus fuelling its growth.

But, while commenting on the brand's strategy, he points, "The MNC bashing that Patanjali has indulged in, is good for a few market share points, but this merely scratches the surface of what it can be. Sooner than later, Patanjali will realise that for the larger market, there is a bigger issue as far as the consumer is concerned. It is the wall of scepticism that traditional or ayurvedic dental products have to scale to be a truly dominant force."

According to Sharma, as a brand that has momentum on its side and a long-term interest in the growth of Ayurveda, it's time Patanjali found a higher ground.

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