Yash Bhatia

Dabur uses charcoal to go after urban tastes for toothpastes

Harkawal Singh, marketing head - oral care, Dabur India, tells us what led it to foray into the charcoal category.

Leading FMCG brand Dabur India has built its foundation on products that contain desi ingredients like neem, tulsi and haldi. The brand has been able to win over customers who’ve been searching for toothpastes that take inspiration from Ayurvedic remedies. Dabur Red, Lal Dant Manjan, Dant Rakshak, Meswak, etc., are examples of such toothpastes.

But with the new Dabur Herb’l Activated Charcoal toothpaste, the brand wants to appeal to younger audiences. Charcoal, as an ingredient, is gaining a lot of traction in not only the oral care sector, but also the personal care space. Charcoal face masks and washes are quite popular. It looks like the brand’s latest move may very well be inspired by what’s in vogue.

Harkawal Singh, marketing head - oral care, Dabur India, says that the insight behind launching the latest product is consumer shift and preference towards whitening toothpastes. 

“We didn’t have any specific whitening toothpaste in our product portfolio. Therefore, we decided to enter this sub-segment. Charcoal is known for being a good absorbent, cleanser and detoxifier,” he shares.

The product is targeted at youngsters in the high-income group. It’s an individual-focussed product, and not for families. Currently, the brand hasn’t launched the toothpaste in a smaller pack. It’s looking to create a hold in metro cities first, and will then focus on Tier-II/III markets. 

According to Dental Tribune India, at Rs 10,000-12,000 crore, the toothpaste category accounts for 70% of the (approx.) Rs 15,000 crore oral care market in the country. The herbal and natural toothpaste category contributes about 30% to the whole market. A Nielsen report states that Dabur holds (approx.) 54% share in this category.

Dabur wants to create a sub-segment in the business, with various ingredients focussing on different aspects. The target audience includes discerning customers, who understand their oral care needs and seek something more than regular toothpaste or a customised option. 

Singh highlights, “In the personal care category, customisation is done on the basis of ingredients. The same will happen in the oral care segment as well. However, in this category, change is quite slow, as compared to the hair and skin category. So, this category will see fewer brands and innovations.”

Whitening, as a category, is big in the western world. It will witness growth in India too. 

“The pace of growth will also depend on the customers, as these products have high price points, as compared to other products. This will become a significant segment over the next 5-6 years,” Singh adds.

New campaign 

The brand’s first digital-focussed campaign addresses the myths attached to the colour, with the tagline ‘Choose Black for White’

“Toothpaste, more or less, is a ‘white-colour dominated’ category. Introducing a new colour has always been a challenge, and especially black, as it tends to raise quite a few eyebrows. But it can also act as a differentiator. We wanted to create a buzz in the market with our communication,” Singh mentions.

Conceptualised and created by Pulp Strategy Communications, the campaign film will be promoted on digital and social media, and target millennials and Gen Z.

Usually, toothpaste ads tend to talk about freshness, dental hygiene and strength. The brand, however, has decided to compare the (black) colour with a different side of life. 

Singh states, “In a white- toothpaste dominated category, we need to connect with the customers at a different level, with our communication. Otherwise, it will be mundane and run-of-the-mill advertising.”

The campaign talks about the significance of black colour in our lives and showcases different instances where it’s used. In one scene, a soldier is seen painting his face black for camouflage. Generally, brands refrain from touching issues related to religion or the armed forces, as they fear customer backlash. 

“We follow government regulations as well as those by the Advertising Standards Council of India. It was more about showing sentiment, and we ensured that it’s not taken in the wrong way. This due diligence is always done with all our creatives,” shares Singh.

Product with a purpose 

With so many products in its portfolio, the brand is looking to create different messaging for every product to avoid any confusion. The focus of Herb’l products looks to create ingredient-based benefits. Dabur Red focuses on keeping dental problems away, Meswak is for complete oral care and Babool is ingredients-led. The brand is looking to cater to a different TG, with each of these products. 

The company is also testing the market for toothpastes like Dabur Herb’l Blackseed and Herb’l Enamel Care Olive. 

“We’re trying these two products in limited cities, and have received a decent response. Before investing in a brand, we try to get the response from customers. In the e-commerce world, consumers are mature and exposed to different things,” says Singh.

“Also, e-commerce consumers are more likely to experiment, as compared to regular customers. We’re doing in-market testing that provides real-time feedback. These experiments may not be revenue-driven, but if one or two products click, then it’s good news for us,” he adds.

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