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Toothpaste brands should not give mobile the brush-off

Consumer packaged goods companies are frequently accused of not moving fast enough to take advantage of mobile marketing. The toothpaste category is a prime example, although this is starting to change as brands start to gain a better understanding of the opportunities in the mobile space.

Marketing toothpaste can be a challenge for brands because even though consumers may use their product every day, few get excited about brushing their teeth. Mobile marketing, when done correctly, can provide these brands with some unique opportunities to build excitement and engage customers.

?Toothpaste is a tough category ? it?s not a sexy product but it's one that consumers use every day,? said Dirk Rients, vice president of mobile at Draftfcb, Chicago. ?A majority of the spend in the category is still in TV and I think these brands need to shift some of that investment and test new things in mobile.

?There are some interesting opportunities to drive engagement via mobile at the store shelf,? he said. ?Brands can help the consumer during their purchasing decision by delivering valuable content such as product information, coupons, or reviews.?

?A lot of the CPGs are still struggling on how to integrate mobile into their overall strategy.?

Shopping tool
At a recent marketing conference, Colgate-Palmolive executive Jack Haber told attendees that the company is behind in its mobile strategy, partially because of resistance within the company.

As a result, the company still spends the lion?s share of it advertising budget on television even as research reveals that mobile consumption of media continues to grow and is currently around 10 percent.

Mobile makes sense for toothpaste brands because the brands are an integral part of consumers? daily lives just like their mobile phones.

?There is little more embedded in a consumer?s life than their mobile phone, and toothpaste brands can quickly build familiarity and brand favorability by being present on mobile devices,? said Kirsten McMullen, director of marketing at 4Info, San Mateo, CA.

?Consumers turn to smartphones for entertainment and information, and most importantly, help in shopping,? she said. ?It?s the ideal device to allow the consumer to engage with the brand, by seeing the benefits offered by specific toothpastes, or by delivering a promotional offer at exactly the right time.?

Better audience targeting
One of the challenges toothpaste brands have faced in mobile is the limited measurement and metrics available. However, this is beginning to change.

For example, mobile advertising company 4Info offers 112 oral hygiene buying behavior segments representing over 4 million consumers that can be reached on mobile.

?As precise audience targeting becomes the norm, measurement becomes possible,? Ms. McMullen said. ?The opportunity for toothpaste brands to take market share through mobile promotions has never been greater.?

Brushing made fun
One way toothpaste brands can reach customers is via mobile applications.

For example, Aquafresh offers the Time2Brush mobile app, which is geared toward helping busy moms encourage their kids to brush their teeth by turning the activity into a game. The app entertains and rewards kids as they brush for two minutes.

The Time2Brush app, which was developed with Brunner, has had 97,000 downloads worldwide.

?Co-viewing or ?co-phoning? - moms sharing their devices with their kids - is so prevalent now in most households?this was a natural fit with the brushing occasion,? said Shaun Quigley, vice president and director of the digital practice at Brunner, Pittsburgh, PA.

?The phone becomes a tool to help with brushing compliance and turn an evening battle into a fun time,? he said.

?To be sure, people are becoming more comfortable using their devices in the bathroom?for all sorts of reasons. Mobile gives a toothpaste brand the opportunity to put another product in the consumer?s hand besides the toothpaste--which is important in this category, because the toothpaste is only effective if it makes it into your 4 year old?s mouth.?

Delivering utility
There are other examples of toothpaste brands using mobile effectively.

P&G's Crest has used mobile advertising to drive awareness and engagement by presenting users with a store locator and the ability to purchase the product straight from the ad (see story).

Crest also uses store displays to point shoppers directly to its mobile site to read product reviews and review product comparisons, providing authentic endorsement of the brand by other users right in the aisle.

Other examples include Biotene, an oral care product used to treat dry mouth, which has a quiz on its mobile site to help consumers understand what dry mouth is.

Because consumer interest in toothpaste is low, one challenge for brands is to generate enough engagement from an app that they can measure the results.

?Driving engagement ? either via entertainment or utility ? is the key to unlocking the mobile channel for toothpaste brands,? Mr. Quigley said. ?Time2Brush from Aquafresh succeeded because it had both.

?There?s a smattering of promotionally-oriented apps from Colgate in the app store, but the key consideration for toothpaste brands is that no one gives a hoot about toothpaste, so why would they give a hoot about your app? If you?re not delivering tangible value or utility, focus your effort elsewhere,? he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York