5 Amazing Approaches That Transformed Sensodyne Overnight

Case Study

I was craving ice cream last week. 

And thought of walking to the store and getting one. 

And as a kid that I am, I ripped off the wrapper and took a huge bite of the ice cream candy.

The next sound I heard was my own scream. My teeth hurt because of the cold ice cream I consumed (duh). 

this is how sensitivity feels and looks like

Yep, that was me last week.  

My mind went on a flashback to Sensodyne’s ad of “sensitivity pain”, or shall I say “Daaton mein jhunjhunahat”.

Pain aside, this made me wonder how well Sensodyne, a toothpaste, has seeped into our minds, merely through a keyword and the pain we feel while eating hot or cold edibles.

Naturally, I had to write a blog on it. 

This blog is a deep dive into Sensodyne, its equation with other toothpaste brands, and what exactly they did to become a household name. 

Digging Deeper into Sensitivity Pain & Sensodyne

Sensitive teeth are caused by worn tooth enamel or exposed teeth roots.

Let’s see some statistics here, shall we?

28% of the world population suffers from sensitivity, yet many don’t seem to care about it[1]

Now, Sensodyne came into the picture in 1961 to provide relief for this ailment in the UK, and was officially launched in India in 2011. 

Back in the early 2000s, Sensodyne had just a user base of 5%. 

A majority of the market was untouched. Many of us were not familiar with sensitivity, let alone how it could be treated. As it turns out, toothpaste was the answer to all the burning questions (albeit very few). 

So, the first step for Sensodyne was to raise awareness of sensitivity and show how real it is. 

Now, Sensodyne contains four active ingredients to manage the sensitivity pain, namely:

  1. Bioactive glass,
  2. Sensodyne Rapid Relief, 
  3. Strontium Acetate, and
  4. Potassium Nitrate.  

 As a layman, I would be like this on hearing about the ingredients:

And, honestly, if a brand tells me about these ingredients, no matter the purpose, I might not be that inclined to purchase from them. 

So, what did Sensodyne do right? 

GSK’s acquisition of Sensodyne

GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd., also known as GSK, one of world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical companies, acquired Block Drug, the company manufacturing Sensodyne in 2000.

Sensodyne was not fulfilling its potential of serving 28% of the people affected by sensitivity. GSK spotted this gap, grabbed this as an opportunity and turned it into a brand we love today.  

How did Sensodyne become a market leader in the Sensitivity sector?

Back in the day, Colgate-Palmolive was the market leader for the sector, followed by Pepsodent (HUL). Both these brands dominated the sector for a long time, since the 90s.

65% of the world population buys Colgate, followed by #2 Coke with 43%[2].

Up until the 2010s, consumers focused on buying the cheapest toothpaste available. Colgate was commonly used in households. Even in the sensitivity category (as much as it was), Colgate was dominant.

Mainly because price was a major deciding factor for toothpastes, not to mention the lack of alternatives, drove Colgate to have a monopoly in the market. 

But, as oral health gained awareness and importance, consumers became more willing to spend a marginally higher amount for it. Urbanization drove families to purchase unique toothpastes for each family member. 

GSK, then, saw this window and took a leap for Sensodyne. 

 Here’s how they made the most of it. 

1. Improved Distribution

Sensodyne was initially sold in pharmacies only. But, after GSK came into the picture, Sensodyne started being sold in Supermarkets too.

As people now could find the product easily, sales increased. By 2004, Sensodyne had a penetration of 11%. However, it was still far away from the total 28% of the people who needed it.

Suffice it to say, Sensodyne took advantage of GSK’s wide distribution network. 

2. The “Dentist Effect”

Normally, people who used Sensodyne found out about the toothpaste from their dentists. Keeping aside the fact that, people usually visit their dentists once or twice a year or when they face any discomfort with oral health. The audience kept narrowing down, and down for Sensodyne. 

Of course, no one was aware that the number of people suffering from this was higher than they imagined. 

So, Sensodyne approached dentists to pitch the toothpaste. And, boy, oh, boy, did it work amazingly well. Dentists not only drove sales for the brand, but also raised awareness of sensitivity among their patients. 

This increased Sensodyne’s credibility and people’s trust in the brand. 

3. TV advertisements

Sensodyne produced ads using real dentists (unpaid and unscripted) and ran them on television to explain sensitivity. The ads followed a documentary pattern, and were shown in over 100 countries in local languages. 

Here’s one of the ads they ran:

And this is my personal favorite.

These advertisements turned out extremely useful as a good percentage of the audience got to know about the condition and also found relief with a toothpaste like Sensodyne.

For a long time, the TV ads have been the driving force behind Sensodyne’s brand recall today. 

4. Premium Pricing

Sensodyne was placed at a premium price as compared to other toothpastes in the market. This was to target upper and middle-class consumers. 

The price range, combined with targeted marketing strategies led to Sensodyne’s growth.  

5. Research and Development

Simultaneously, Sensodyne began educating dentists, letting them know the actual magnitude of sensitivity pain. 

GSK further invested in deeper research and development to improve the product and bring options on the table for different age ranges. 

Conclusion

Sensodyne’s market share has grown well after the acquisition of GSK. It has dominated the sensitivity market even with big players like Colgate. 

The toothpaste market, which was once dominated by Colgate and Pepsodent, broke down after Sensodyne managed to raise awareness on sensitivity and the possible solutions to it. 

Today, Sensodyne has a user base of 20% out of the 28% of the people that are affected by the condition of Sensitivity.

Sensodyne leveraged on the consumers’ pain and built an empire on it while providing a solution, just how Duolingo had done (read that story here).

What do you think that Sensodyne did right? When was the first time you recalled Sensodyne when you suffered from sensitivity? 

Let me know in the comments below. 

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