Dear Colgate Total Advanced Clean,
Thank you for reminding me of the twin dangers of “Benefit Bundling” and “Sub-Brand-&-Descriptor-itis”.
Excessive “Benefit Bundling” is fraught with risk as it doesn’t really leave the brand anywhere to go – once a brand has launched an “ultimate” proposition, it begins to lose some of its credibility when it starts upgrading that proposition. As a consumer, I’m left pondering whether or not the original Total proposition actually had much “cleaning” (a generic benefit of toothpaste, surely) in it in the first place…which devalues the entire brand.
There is logic here though, especially as Oral Care brands, like detergent and dishwashing brands, constantly have to upgrade their benefits to stay in the game. And I can see how the team at Colgate has got to this branding hierarchy: Total, having started life as – an albeit misleading – descriptor (Total it seems refers to 12-Hour protection rather than a “total” (as in complete) set of benefits), has now evolved to be a sub-brand in its own right and in theory should be able to “carry” some level of additional benefit. But I’m just not convinced that consumers can “cope” with so many levels of messaging. Colgate Total Plus Whitening Gel is even guiltier:
Thinking about all this reminds me of some posts from (genius) marketing cartoonist Tom Fishburne. Feature Creep , Art by Committee (make sure you check out the fantastic spoof of the Microsoft iPod that’s in this post) and my personal favourite, Attribute Soup:
And where would we be without humour? Other than Switzerland of course. (Thanks to my former colleague and good friend Paul Walton for that one!)