Blessing Nwobodo |
The Nigerian oral care market is one that boasts of a barrage of local and foreign brands, yet not many of them are as successful as the Close-up brand from the stable of Unilever Nigeria Plc, which, over the years, have consistently maintained its market leadership in terms of mindshare and market share.
Since it took over market leadership from Macleans Toothpaste, Close-Up has always controlled a large chunk of the category’s total market share, with its value share put at 33% as at 2012, added to its wide range of variants, extensive national penetration and strong advertising support, which has immensely boosted its popularity among households.
However, in recent times, it appears that this market dominance is increasingly being threatened by Procter & Gamble’s Oral-B Pro-Health Toothpaste. In less than five years after its introduction in 2011, Bizwatchnigeria can authoritatively report that Oral-B is increasingly gaining its way into the consciousness of many Nigerian consumers, all thanks to its positioning!
Speaking at the launch of the toothpaste, the former Managing Director of Procter and Gamble, Manoj Kumar, minced no words. He had claimed that Oral-B was revolutionary. “Oral-B Pro-Health is no ordinary toothpaste. It delivers protection on important areas of oral health. We are confident consumers will see and feel the difference when they try it,” he had promised.
Also speaking, Cletus Onyebuoha, Oral-B Brand Manager for P&G, West Africa, had said that though there are many toothpaste brands, most of the products on the shelves have the same formulation for over twenty years. “But, we know that our consumer needs have changed and that they want more from their toothpaste. They need toothpaste that can offer them more protection from their sensitivities and cavities. They want whitening plus more of a dentist-level of cleaning. They are prepared to pay a little more for something that really works,” he had noted. Few years down the line, it is obvious Oral-B is now rubbing shoulders with the leaders in the oral care product market, at least, in terms of perception.
Before the introduction of Oral-B, the average Nigerian consumer could barely distinguish what the numerous toothpaste brands were offering. Except for their colour and perhaps packaging, they all seemed to be the same, emphasizing more of lifestyle and less of wellbeing in their positioning.
However, driven by the need to have a truly all-round protection oriented toothpaste in a market surrounded by basic fresh breath products and having conducted a thorough market research for 15 years, P&G decided to launch into the Nigerian market, positioning as a total oral health care brand.
This new positioning has since given it a leeway to play big in the Nigerian oral care market, having manipulated and repositioned competition to create its own creneau. Its claim to be the toothpaste brand that most dentists use worldwide is equally an added advantage to its marketing proposition.
“What Oral-B simply did was to move a new idea into the mind of the consumer who, before then, saw toothpaste for what it is and not what more it can offer beyond whitening the teeth like mostly advertised by major competition. Oral-B saw a big space to cash in on and that is why in terms of total oral care, more and more consumers now prefer it. Have you seen their advert on TV? In a long while, we haven’t seen such educative advert that tells people how to take care of their teeth. Is it the packaging? Everything about the brand, says it is committed to total oral care. What more does the average consumer want in toothpaste?” asked a brand expert in a leading advertising agency who craved anonymity.
A look at its Facebook engagement platform further shows the level of loyalty that it has garnered in the short while of becoming active on the platform. As at the last check on May 27, 2014, Oral-B has over 7 million likes on Facebook, compared to Close-Up’s over 6 million.
Interestingly, the toothpaste brand on its Facebook page provides information and advice regarding oral health to its fans every Monday through its Ask A Dentist Facebook app. In the past, it also provided free dental check to thousands of people at several physical locations in Nigeria.
While the coast is not entirely clear for the Oral-B brand, considering that it needs to continually step up the game and sustain the tempo of its marketing drive to remain connected to its existing and potential consumers, it is clear that the apparent success recorded so far by the brand in the oral care category could only have been achieved by virtue of its positioning.