The flavors are quite simple, as the company chooses to focus more on the toothpaste's health characteristics, rather than the taste.
The product has one size and the packaging is made of plastic, which is more hygienic than metal, as the later one may go through oxidation. This type of packaging differentiates the product from other toothpastes and marks its individuality.
The product is always strictly associated with the idea of relieving tooth sensitivity and pain from sensitive teeth. The name itself was thus conceived so as to associate the brand with the effect of having used the product.
On the other hand, for a long period of time, Sensodyne was associated with the idea of medication and the company has committed a lot of effort in the last decade to diversify the consumer perception and induce the idea that Sensodyne is less a medication and more of a product available to all individuals with sensitive teeth. Its move meant that Sensodyne became more available to the general public willing to try the product.
On the toothpaste market for around 30 years, Sensodyne is in its maturity phase of the lifecycle. Given the particular characteristics of the product and the fact that the targeted market is a niche market, who will most likely always need to the product, one can draw the conclusion that the product is likely to remain in the maturity phase for a long period of time, without the risk of it actually disappearing from the market.
Given its initial characteristic and presentation as a medicine, Sensodyne was initially distributed in pharmacies.
However, recently, distribution was expanded to supermarkets, hypermarkets and small shops, so that it could be available to all consumers, who had better access to the product. Basically, it reached all types of customers.
The distribution strategy also impacted the pricing strategy. The initial distribution through pharmacies implied a premium price that was too high to make the product attractive to most of the regular toothpaste customers. However, with its present higher accessibility and with the fact that distribution now includes supermarkets and small stores, the price is only slightly higher.
Distribution needs to be closely related to brand perception. In the beginning, it was important for the product to be distributed only in pharmacies, because it ensured that individuals perceived the product for what it was: an toothpaste to be used as a medical solution for sensitive teeth and gums. This also implied that physicians could recommend it as a medical solution and that it could be used as such.
With customers' perception already well established, the company could now expand its distribution channels to include various types of retailers, as previously shown. Sensodyne became available to a larger number of individuals with a strategy that included lower prices and higher availability.
Direct sale, such as through the Internet, is not generally used on this market. The reason for this might be related to the fact that toothpaste is one of the items that the customer is used to purchasing at the supermarket when doing his or her weekly shopping. It is less probable that toothpaste could be ordered online, unless in very large quantities. From this perspective, Sensodyne will remain to the distribution channels previously described.
Promotion mix strategies
Sensodyne is promoted through various channels. First of all, advertising includes TV and radio commercials, magazines, the Internet and dentist cabinets. The latter is particularly important because it ensures the idea that Sensodyne is a toothpaste recommended and endorsed by dentists as a solution to sensitive teeth and gums.
This can further emphasized if dentists themselves recommend this in TV commercials or in their cabinets (Sensodyne generally appears as #1 Dentist-Recommended). This can be assimilated to a form of personal selling and Sensodyne sales can be boosted through contracts with dentists who can receive a commission on the total volume of Sensodyne sales they can achieve through their cabinets.
The Internet has become more and more used as a promotion channel in the last years. The site: http://us.sensodyne.com/,customized for the U.S. audience, provides information on the different types of Sensodyne toothpaste, full explanations on sensitive teeth (there is a page on How it works) and even a link towards a free sample. The latter ensures that new potential customers develop an interest in Sensodyne and are willing to try it.
The product's package has become more commercial and more in line with other toothpastes distributed through supermarkets. This is clearly in line with the company's strategy of making the product more available to the general public and to differentiate it from being perceived as a simple medication. Each Sensodyne product has a different a color to differentiate it from all others (green for fresh mint and red for the original flavor).
Sensodyne products are generally merchandised on the top shelf or on the shelves generally situated higher up. There is no promotion-related explanation for this, other than that it is a method to differentiate the product from the more traditionally commercial products such as Colgate.
The toothpaste's price is above the average supermarket price for toothpaste. As previously mentioned, the brand needs to be positioned somewhere in the middle between being perceived as a medication solution to sensitive teeth and being seen as available to the general public. The higher than average price ensures that the product is perceived as a premium product, more expensive and, thus, better than the traditional commercial toothpastes such as Colgate. Basically, the premium price stands for higher quality.
Indeed, the product is meant to serve special needs: teeth sensitivity to cold and hot. Thus, there will always be a consistently large number of customers willing to pay the premium price to relief the pain.
The premium pricing strategy also has explanations in terms of demand and supply. First of all, in terms of demand, the Sensodyne customers are generally quite loyal in their choice. These are individuals who have been suffering from sensitive teeth and gums and who associate Sensodyne with being relieved of this pain. On the other hand, from this perspective, one can emphasize the fact that demand is relatively constant, without significant variations: the core Sensodyne consumers, the ones matching the profile previously described, will remain loyal Sensodyne consumers for a long time.
This can be seen from the table previously provided. Sensodyne market share remained relatively stable on the U.S. market in the period from 1999 to 2000. In 1999, the Sensodyne market share was 4.1%, while in 2000 it increased slightly to 4.2%.
Supply is relatively controllable as well, because the company can virtually evaluate the necessary quantity for the market and produce a quantity that will match this to a certain degree.
On the other hand, environmental issues are less relevant in the case of the Sensodyne market. However, issues such as regulatory ones could play an important role in forcing the company to change its prices so that the profit margins will not modify significantly.
Sensodyne is well positioned on the U.S. market as a product that offers something extra and different from other toothpastes: relieves pain associated with sensitive teeth and gums. From this point-of-view, Sensodyne has designed its marketing mix strategies to create the image of a premium product (premium pricing, for example).
Nevertheless, during the last period of time, there have been successful moves towards popularizing the brand. This included changes in the distribution channels, with the product being commercialized in supermarkets and small stores much more than before. Traditional sales methods can be completed with sales through dental cabinets, a strong method of promotion as well.
BBC news (2003), Glaxo Defeated byShareholders, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/
Colgate-Palmolive corporate website:
CorporateWatch Website: http://www.corporatewatch.org/, Accessed May 2007.
De Kok, a.C. And S.C. Graves (2003), "Supply Chain Management - Design, Cooperation and Operation," 11th Edition, Elsevier Publications.
Dunning, John (1993) "Multinational Enterprises and the Global Economy," Addison and Wesley.
Dunning, John H. (2002) "Theories and Paradigms of International Business Activity - the Selected Essays of John H. Dunning," vol.1, Edward Elgar Publishing.
Glaxo Smith Kline corporate Website: http://www.gsk.com/index.htm