Cleaning up its act

Despite not having the lion’s share of the adult oral care market, GlaxoSmithKline is experiencing growth and seems committed to developing three strong, distinctive brands, says Louise Jack

MacleansThe mature oral care category, worth 799.8m in 2008, according to Neilsen, is bracing itself for some fierce competition. Although the market is led by Colgate-Palmolive with a 27% share, according to analyst Mintel, it is GlaxoSmithKline and its portfolio of brands – Macleans, Aquafresh and Sensodyne – that is seeing the strongest growth.

Collectively, GSK’s brands account for 20% of the market and, in the toothpaste sector, its brands grew by 9.8% in 2008, compared to Colgate’s rise of 3.9%.

The promotion strategy at Colgate has been to support the Colgate brand in terms of ongoing above and below-the-line activity, often in response to product development. Colgate also benefits from frequent price promotion deals throughout its retailing network.

By contrast, GSK is committed to building its three distinct brands and increasing their sales using different strategies. James Hallatt, general manager of consumer healthcare at GSK, says: “We see having three brands as an advantage, because this allows us to have clearly defined propositions behind each brand, which in turn gives them greater scope for growth.”

While Sensodyne concentrates on its “sensitive teeth” positioning, setting it apart from the other GSK brands, the company has more work to do in differentiating Aquafresh and Macleans. Aquafresh will emphasise its family-focused, “three-in-one” protection qualities, while Macleans will be revamped to develop a premium edge, based on the idea of giving people “social confidence”.

Macleans was originally launched in the Thirties and was one of the UK’s first toothpaste brands. Its parent company, Macleans Ltd, was acquired in 1938 by pharmaceutical business Beecham, which also added Eno’s Proprietaries, manufacturer of energy-replacement drink Lucozade to its portfolio.

In 1989, SmithKline Beckman and The Beecham Group merged to form SmithKline Beecham and, in 2000, GlaxoSmithKline was formed through the merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham.

Macleans has lost some of the potency it enjoyed in the Fifties, when it gained a premium edge by being sold against a backdrop of post-war Hollywood glamour. Hallatt admits the brand has failed to maintain its personality as well as it might have. He says: “Since 2000, its position has become less compelling. The current proposition is a return to the brand’s original values.”

GSK is planning imminent product launches including a sub brand called Macleans Confidence. The product range will comprise of a gel-to-foam toothpaste using GSK’s iso-active technology, a mouthwash and a mouth spray. GSK says this underlines the brand’s social-confidence positioning.

The marketing investment for its oral brands and its commitment to iso-active technology, which GSK is likely to extend across all its consumer brands, involves costly changes to production and packaging processes.

The shift of corporate emphasis – in this case in the toothpaste division – is being led on a larger scale by GSK’s recently installed chief executive Andrew Witty, who replaced Jean-Pierre Garnier last year after an 18-month-long internal leadership battle.

Despite some suggestions that GSK should sell its consumer arm, Witty rejects the idea and says the consumer business is a “core part” of GSK, stating he wants the brand to be less dependent on “blockbuster” drugs.

Witty has even made further commitments to the company’s consumer division, such as plans for a 70m soft-drinks bottling plant. Hallatt claims that the consumer healthcare division will be “re-energised and more dynamic” as a result. He adds that: “It is under greater scrutiny, but this is a good thing as it drives performance and creativity.”

It seems the battle for consumer hearts and mouths may only just be beginning.

Facts and figures
Macleans

1930s UK brand Macleans is launched
1938 Macleans Ltd is purchased by medicines company, Beecham
1950s Its first TV ad campaign promises healthier teeth and a “better, happier life”
1960s Macleans runs a campaign that positions the brand as a hero, helping a girl attract a man using the tagline: “She’s got it. He sees it. Macleans did it!”
1979 Fluoride is added
2000 Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham merge to form GlaxoSmithKline
2009 Macleans launches a new sub brand, incorporating GSK’s new iso-active format, which it claims removes 25% more bacteria than an ordinary toothpaste.

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