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Pepsodent vs. Colgate: How effective is comparative advtg?

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Pepsodent vs. Colgate: How effective is comparative advtg?

Pepsodent’s attack on Colgate last weekend took the audience and industry by surprise. It created buzz as brand name Colgate was clearly visible in the ad, which came with a confident conclusion that Pepsodent’s Germicheck is no less than 130 per cent better than Colgate – the current market leader with a 54.2 per cent market share in the Rs 5050 crore Indian toothpaste market.

We ask experts whether such tactics work and if they can influence consumer decision and help grab larger market share…

Comparative advertising is something that the challenger brand should undertake; for example, Tyson Gay can challenge Usain Bolt, but it cannot be the other way around.
“Pepsodent is doing the right thing when it comes to comparative advertising. A brand has to keep in mind how strong is the competition that it is taking on. You have to be in a relative position to challenge,” said Anand Halve, Co-Founder of Chlorophyll and Author.
“Times change, markets change, consumers change and marketers need to stay on top of this change. Comparative advertising is bound to get more and more aggressive and more and more in the open as the times get competitive. Most brands will use competitive advertising that pokes fingers into the eye of the competitor. And most will say that it is their right to keep consumers informed. If Pepsodent is superior to Colgate by a precise 130 per cent, it is Pepsodent’s right and duty to keep consumers informed,” opined Harish Bijoor, Brand Expert and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults.

The point remains how effective is the ad. From a consumer’s perspective, does the consumer really want to know about the 130 per cent? Will it have an impact on how brand Pepsodent is perceived?

“Arithmetical challenges don’t work in comparative advertising; consumers don’t connect with an intellectual comparison. The comparison needs to be crafted in a manner that a consumer can relate to. For example, Balsara Group’s Promise that has clove oil resonates because as Indians we know it is good for teeth. A successful comparative advertising campaign will tap something that already exists in the consumer’s heart,” added Halve.

Interestingly, Promise which was launched in India in 1978, successfully gained the second highest market share after leader Colgate. Its success was attributed to its unique proposition of clove oil with tagline ‘Laung ke tel wala promise’. It made an instant connect with traditional Indian households which have believed in dental ailments being treated with clove oil for decades.

“Comparative advertising can be quite fascinating,” believes KV Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett India and Subcontinent. “But, at the end of the day legal teams have an upper hand after the damage has been done. Consumers need to be involved in comparative advertising; people love seeing an underdog winning as they feel like they have won. The more you involve people, the more successful is the campaign,” he said.

When it comes down to the success and impact of a comparative advertising campaign, experts believe that the brand’s efforts supplemented with other activities such as a free dental check-up or replacement of half used Colgate tube with a brand new Pepsodent tube will have more impact on consumers as opposed to only the TVC. This will take the campaign a step further than a stronger germicheck, which the consumer may not care about immediately.

Whilst examples of such competitive and aggressive advertising are essentially tactical bits that help boost brand salience, will this become a part of mainstream strategy for brands?

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Kranti Gada joined the family business at Shemaroo in 2006 after a successful stint of over two years in marketing at Pepsi Co. She has been associated with the company for 12 years.

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