Ananya Pathak
Marketing

Toothbrush protection moves on from plastic head caps, UV sanitisation, sprays, to anti-bacterial bristles…

Colgate has launched a ZigZag toothbrush with 100 per cent silver ion anti-bacterial bristles that keep bacteria from attaching to it. An analysis…

‘Anti-bacterial’, ‘anti-viral’… The commonly used marketing terminology in the past couple of months, other than ‘immunity’, of course. From plywood brands (Greenlam, CenturyPly), to fabrics (Raymond, Siyaram), to wall paints (Nerolac, Asian Paints), to mattresses (Duroflex), to eye wear (Titan Eyeplus), to electronics (Crompton LED Bulb), all have made sure to jump on the bandwagon.

Obviously, it all made sense, given the heightened interest in sanitisation and health since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. Such claims help the brands stay relevant in these unprecedented times when most of the consumer’s attention is concentrated on the ‘essentials’.

The latest addition to this list of brands from across categories, speaking the language to draw consumers’ attention, is oral healthcare brand Colgate-Palmolive (India). Under its ZigZag portfolio of toothbrushes, the company has launched an anti-bacterial toothbrush.

The manual toothbrush is equipped with 100 per cent silver ion anti-bacterial bristles that keep bacteria from attaching to it, the company claims. In addition, ZigZag's multi-angled bristles remove germs in between teeth.

For the launch of the product, Colgate on-boarded Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana as the brand ambassador and released a 20-second-long digital film with him to promote it. Conceptualised by Red Fuse Communications, WPP’s integrated communication partner to Colgate India, the film highlights how a regular toothbrush acts as a carrier (‘taxi’) for outside germs to your mouth.

Toothbrush protection moves on from plastic head caps, UV sanitisation, sprays, to anti-bacterial bristles…

A pack of six Colgate ZigZag anti-bacterial toothbrush (soft) costs Rs 120 (discounted price; original cost - Rs 180).

Toothbrush protection moves on from plastic head caps, UV sanitisation, sprays, to anti-bacterial bristles…

However, Indians have forever been using regular tap water to rinse off the germs from the surface of the toothbrush before squeezing the toothpaste onto the bristles. Many also believe that storing toothbrushes in closed places, like cabinets and drawers, keep them germ-free. People also use toothbrush head cover caps and cases.

Brands like Classic Coffee Gold Supreme, Dr. Flex and Oral-B sell a range of toothbrushes with ‘anti-bacterial containers’.

Classic Coffee Gold Supreme Super Soft Toothbrushes with Anti Bacterial Cap
Classic Coffee Gold Supreme Super Soft Toothbrushes with Anti Bacterial Cap
Dr. Flex Hard Toothbrush with DuPont Filaments in Anti-Bacterial Container
Dr. Flex Hard Toothbrush with DuPont Filaments in Anti-Bacterial Container

These are easily available across e-commerce platforms and offline retail stores in the price range of Rs 30-60/ piece. Dr. Flex Hand Toothbrush with DuoPont Filaments in anti-bacterial container is available for Rs 225 (pack of four) and Classic Coffee Gold Supreme Super Soft Toothbrush with anti-bacterial cap is available for Rs 360 (pack of 12).

However, there have been arguments around the use of plastic head caps on toothbrushes, with some claiming that it (the cap) can create a moist enclosed breeding ground for bacteria.

JERN UV Toothbrush Sanitizer Case
JERN UV Toothbrush Sanitizer Case

There are also products available that claim to sanitise toothbrushes using ultraviolet rays (JERN UV Toothbrush Sanitizer Case, Bs Spy UV Sterilizer Toothbrush Sanitizer, Pursonic S1Portable UV Toothbrush Sanitiser, and others) in the form of sprays and rinses.

A blog by Colgate, titled ‘Should you use a toothbrush cover’ states, the American Dental Association (ADA) reports that even though bacteria accumulates on your toothbrush, there is no indication that these germs negatively affect your oral or general health.

It reads, “The ADA explains that there isn't conclusive data on the effectiveness of disinfecting your toothbrush with solutions like antimicrobial mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide. It's important, however, to not put your toothbrush in the dishwasher or microwave, as these cleaning methods will likely damage your brush. A toothbrush cover may seem like a good option for keeping your toothbrush clean, but the ADA notes that closed containers create a moist environment that actually promotes the growth of bacteria.”

Colgate’s pandemic offering seems to make sense, given the interest around ‘anti-bacterial’ products. But we wonder what its equity is after almost eight months into the pandemic, when the scare of the Coronavirus is gradually fading away?

While the brand was unavailable to comment at the time of filing this story, when we asked the same to Ajeeta Bharadwaj, chief strategy officer, Wondrlab (a martech start-up), she says, “There is a thin wall between opportunity and opportunism, but it is important to be on the right side of this wall. The Colgate innovation by itself is actually fairly relevant to its market context.”

Ajeeta Bharadwaj
Ajeeta Bharadwaj

She is of the opinion that toothbrush, as a segment, is more transactional as compared to toothpaste. So, innovations present a good opportunity to demonstrate value.

“What lets it down is the temptation to capitalise on the current germ paranoia in communication. There is so much focus on that, that there is no time left for innovation itself. Why is an anti-bacterial toothbrush the solution and not general toothbrush hygiene? That moot question itself remains unanswered.”

Nisha Singhania, co-founder and director of Infectious Advertising (a digital-first, integrated creative agency), feels that being in the oral hygiene category, Colgate has always been anti-germs and anti-bacteria. Hence, launching an anti-bacterial toothbrush (to her) seems like a natural portfolio extension.

Nisha Singhania
Nisha Singhania

“Given the pandemic situation, people are now more aware and prone to buying anti-germ and anti-bacterial products, so it makes sense,” she signs off.