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How insight into tooth sensitivity helped GSK India build Sensodyne into a mega brand

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 16, 2020 Published on January 16, 2020

The company let consumers know their pain was treatable, and pitched Sensodyne as the answer

Some ten years ago, GSK India made a discovery: many people suffered from tooth sensitivity, but didn't know what it was and certainly did not associate its treatment with a toothpaste. Sensing an opportunity, the multinational let consumers know that their pain was a treatable condition, and that it had a name... and it pitched Sensodyne as the answer.

The company disproportionately benefited from that improved consumer understanding. A decade later, Sensodyne rules the sensitivity toothpaste chart in India. It continues to be the jewel in the British MNC’s consumer healthcare crown, posting double-digit growth year-on-year, and has swept past competitors in India, leaving many impressed by the brand’s audacious risk-taking capability.

“We have been in India for less than 10 years and are growing at 8x the category,” Anurita Chopra, Area Marketing Lead, Oral Care, GSK Consumer Healthcare India, told BusinessLine. “It is a ₹10,000 crore category and deeply penetrated, though a tough category. We have been clocking 30-40 per cent growth year-on-year,” she adds.

Also read: GSK dispenses oral care, tooth sensitivity advice via chat-bots

Chopra has been responsible for driving the growth of Sensodyne, and has been instrumental in its campaigns and launches, including the launch of Sensodyne Whitening.

The brand’s message

In Mumbai for an advertisement shoot, Chopra spoke on how the company grew by sticking to the core proposition of sensitivity and moved past the teething problems. “Though tooth pain was common, consumers would think it is a cavity since one brand was only talking cavity at the time," she says.

The company decided to sink its teeth into brand messaging and focus on sensitivity.

“For the first few years, we told people the condition exists. We call it ‘jhanjhana’. Then, we started telling them about the triggers: cold water, garam chai, ice creams...that brought on the sting. We have now shifted the whole messaging to ‘don't ignore sensitivity’. It is bound to get worse if you ignore it because it is a condition,” maintains Chopra.

Consumers need to approach teeth problems as they do dry skin, she added, for the latter can only get worse if ignored.

A big market

With one in three Indians suffering from sensitivity, the market was ripe for the picking. Current lifestyles also play their part.

“Age is a huge factor (in the onset of sensitivity),” said Chopra. “Earlier, people in their 40s would complain of sensitive teeth. Now, the condition is prevalent in the early 30s, because of consuming more acidic foods and becase of lifestyle changes. Globally, it is the same index,” adds Chopra.

The company decided to concentrate on brand messaging to bring on the underlying value proposition and developed an innovative marketing campaign called ‘chill test’ for Sensodyne, aiming to educate and create experiences to let consumers understand dental hyper sensitivity. The unique activation programme, conducted in several malls across the country, engaged consumers directly, showing the problem and providing a solution.

“Sensodyne is a science and R&D-backed rational brand. It does not over promise and under-deliver, which many brands in the personal care space tend to do,” says Chopra, who maintains the company decided to focus on the core benefit of sensitivity.

Speaking about how the brand graduated into its many avatars (Sensodyne Sensitive, Fresh Gel, Rapid Relief, Repair & Protect), the executive says the company is evaluating and exploring many new areas. “If the space seems the most relevant to us, we go there. It is not neccessary that a brand needs to go only in one direction, or explore a certain space or follow a trend,” adds Chopra, speaking about ayurveda and the toothpaste category. “One has to figure out what is right for the brand and explore it. We are a fairly young brand and there is scope to grow, but we will continue to stick to the core promise.”

Published on January 16, 2020
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