Can Unilever’s Pepsodent make oral care accessible to everyone everywhere?
Unilever’s Pepsodent brand wants to improve oral well-being in developing markets globally and is focused on key APAC markets in a bid to bolster access to dental care. The Drum spoke to Kartik Chandrasekhar, global lead for Pepsodent and oral care category head at Unilever, about the brand's ambitious strategy.
Pepsodent's plans to relook at oral care
Pepsodent, the Unilever-owned oral care brand, is on a mission to tackle the challenges stopping people from accessing dental care globally, starting with the Asia-Pacific region.
The brand has identified access to dental hygiene and care as the number one challenge for developing markets including some countries within APAC, such as Indonesia, where the vast majority (86%) have never visited a dentist, and Vietnam, where the average 65-year-old is missing seven teeth.
In a bid to address this key challenge, Pepsodent has launched a global campaign ‘Now everyone can #talktoadentist’ in 10 key markets, starting with Indonesia and Vietnam
The premise is simple - to tackle the burden on the health system due to the lack of access to professional dental care, Pepsodent is working with dentistry partners to provide access by providing free tele-dental consultations to the under-served communities, shares Kartik Chandrasekhar, global lead for Pepsodent and oral care category head at Unilever.
The free tele-dental consultations will help ensure that everyone can access quality dental health advice and care, regardless of their financial situation, he adds.
Teledentistry as the solution for oral care challenges
“Teledentistry has the potential to revolutionize oral healthcare access for millions of people around the world, especially in developing and emerging countries,” according to the findings of a global task force of academic experts brought together by the Oral Health Foundation, Unilever Oral Care and Pepsodent.
Thus, Pepsodent has launched this ambitious oral care plan deploying its packaging and commercials to direct consumers to these platforms, where they can receive free consultations and healthcare advice, shares Chandrasekhar.
The pilot has been launched in Indonesia and Vietnam, and will roll out across other markets globally.
The campaign will also see limited-edition packs available in countries such as Bangladesh, where consumers can redeem free dental check-ups by calling a hotline on the pack and being directed to the nearest partner dentist, he adds.
The gameplan for Pepsodent
Pepsodent’s launch story way back in 1918 is classic marketing folklore. Launched in the US during the World War to help a nation understand and eradicate oral care disease, brushing teeth was an alien phenomenon done by very few people. Oral health was a big issue then and remains a significant challenge even today.
“Today, as per the data, over 3.5 billion people suffer from oral care disease – the number is not reducing and it has already become the world’s largest disease," says Chandrasekhar, who assumed the brand role earlier this year. The Drum met him in the multinational's Singapore office.
“We decided to go back to the basics of why Pepsodent was launched way back – the mission is to eradicate the oral care disease and what is needed is not just brushing regularly, but equally important is visiting the dentist regularly.” Hence the entire focus on access is the guiding lever to solving the oral care challenges. The defined task for the brand is to change the behaviour of people, and that is where marketing can help, he says.
After all, “what is good for the consumer is also good for the business”, says Chandrasekhar whose previous role as the long-serving global lead of Lifebuoy saw an immensely successful change in the brand's fortunes. Lifebuoy’s success was driven by changing consumer behaviours and promoting hand-washing habits to a large mass of people. He hopes to deploy some of the learnings from Lifebuoy to his current mandate, he shares.
Adds Chandrasekhar, “This launch to make oral care more accessible via technology, will be done first in markets like Indonesia and Vietnam where Pepsodent is already well-penetrated.” Indonesia, incidentally is one market where this brand has been the most successful and that market is the pillar of Pepsodent's growth journey, he adds.