According to leading oral care marketing consultant, David Biernbaum; while results continue to wane in prescription drugs, over-the-counter remedies, and even in some health and beauty aids categories, the oral care consumer business remains a proven source of solid profits.
That's the good news.
But, according to Biernbaum (biernbaum.com), the oral care category suffers from underachievement and lack of insight into the unique individuality of consumer behavior. Most personal care categories are driven by price, history, promotion and advertising.
Oral care is atypical because premium-price consumers are abundant, and while consumers are sometimes educated about a new item from advertising, it's important to know that more often than not they are discreetly shopping the oral care aisle of retail stores for novel solutions that will help to resolve oral health social problems. Inconspicuous as it may be, the search for discovery is hopeful, and it's a quest that often takes a consumer to more than one retail chain to find a novel solution for an oral health social problem.
Unlike the typical impulse or commodity customer these high-paying, high-profit consumers will pick up any number of boxes, bottles and packages--reading every word--in search of a life-changing solution to such embarrassing oral health social dilemmas as bad breath, yellowing teeth, unsightly cold sores and snoring. Consumers shop the oral care aisles with great hopes and anticipation of spending their oral health money. They are not complacent about oral care choices and solutions.
As a category it has a long way to go. Consumers are constantly shopping retail stores for newer, better and improved solutions. When all retail stores carry the same assortment it's disappointing to the best paying customers.
The real money in oral care space management is not found with current universal product code (UPC) rankings and market share, because oral care is characterized by constant upgrading of innovations and solutions. The sales history is less relevant than in most categories.
In a sense, oral care products are similar to consumer electronics. Consumers have an ongoing appetite for newer, better and now. The profits are seldom yesterday's news.
It is, of course, fundamental to carry a nice mix of leading name brands of toothpastes, tooth brushes, dental floss and mouthwashes. However, the difference between making real money and just settling for marginal profits is outside the usual comfort zone where personal care is concerned.
Oral care consumers appreciate and reward differentiation with loyalty and profits. After all, without differentiating, the only point of difference is price.
Consumers will reward us with higher margins and profits for better whiteners that work fast before weddings, two-minute timers, pricey tongue cleaners with sure grips and comfort-edge technology, oxygen-powered breath mints that last all day, microclean floss inside a bacteria-resistant toothbrush cover, breath strips that are gentle tasting and allow for close encounters of the first kind, antisnore devices that save marriages, and even battery-assisted denture cleaners for people with arthritis that have food and wine stains they don't want to share.
The intense social aspects in oral care are often underestimated, and high-profit solutions are often overlooked. Those who turn on the television or listen to talk radio will likely hear a halitosis expert such as Dr. Harold Katz explaining bad breath to listeners that call in with passionate fervor to discuss how this social dilemma is the curse of their lives. They are desperate for a life-changing solution and will gladly pay a premium price at the supermarket or drug store.
Such oral care segments as whitening, freshening and snoring are not meant to be hot and cold trends. They address ongoing social problems that plague consumers. When these segments are hot it means that consumers are flocking to retail stores to try products that are presently on the shelves.
Time will tell if the current assortment of products will have staying power.
When these types of segments begin to decline in unit and dollar sales it means one thing: Consumers are saying it's time to try something else. They still want to be provided with the solutions, and they are more willing than ever to generate high margins and oral-healthy profits.