Analysis of a tooth paste brand - a low involvement good

Term Paper, 2000

12 Pages, Grade: A-

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Analysis of a tooth paste brand - Colgate Total - a low involvement product

1. Introduction

As nowadays billions of dollars are spent on an effective advertising for fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), which are regarded as low involvement products, a vital issue is the analysis of the relationship between the products and their consumers.

As often stated, the toothpaste is a classical example for a low involvement good.

In the following report one specific toothpaste brand - “Colgate Total” - will be analysed according to its level of involvement.

Firstly the evaluation of a questionnaire shall prove and underline the assumption of toothpaste as a low involvement good and measure the presence and level of the perceived risks in relation to low involvement products.

Secondly, the impact of learning and attitude on the level of involvement will be analysed.

After an evaluation of the marketing strategies of the toothpaste brand “Colgate” and its product “Colgate Total” and their effects on the level of involvement, the author will introduce ideas for alternative strategies for the chosen brand to increase the involvement.

2. The level of involvement and perceived risk

A general definition of involvement includes, that involvement:

1. is related to the consumer’s values and self-concept, which influence the degree of personal importance ascribed to a product or situation;
2. can vary across individuals and different situations;
3. is related to some form of arousal.(Lawson, Tidwell, Rainbird, Loudon, Della Bitta, 1999, p325)

As already stated above, the decision-making process for buying a toothpaste is commonly regarded as an low involvement action, i.e. the consumer is not willing to search for alternatives, purchases the easiest way while buying the familiar brand, and seeks not the optimal but only the satisfactory solution etc.

To emphasize the statement that toothpaste is regarded as a low Involvement product, the author will analyse the product, following the dimensions of involvement. (Andrews,1990; Zaichkowsky, 1986)

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The Dimensions include the antecedents, the involvement properties and the response factors. It will be focused on the presence and the level of perceived risks, which are parts of the antecedents.

The antecedents

The antecedents, which are regarded as sources or bases for the involvement level, are either personal variables, object or stimuli variables or situational variables, which have a high impact on the level of involvement.

Especially the variables of stimulus and object are of high interest regarding the level of involvement. Goods, which seem to be strongly related to the consumers’ interests, values and experiences, might demand a higher level. One of these stimuli-variables is the perceived risk. The consumer will perceive risk, when any behaviour of consumer will force consequences, which he or she looks at with a certain amount of uncertainty. (Chaudhuri, 2000) Furthermore the perceived risk can be seen as an indicator of the product importance as well as a mediator for information research, i.e. the higher the level of perceived risk, the more information will be searched and evaluated.

According to the chosen product toothpaste, a low level of perceived risks can be assumed.

First of all the factors which could increase the level of perceived risk have to be identified:

Probable indicators could be: product failure and personal risk (the taste of the toothpaste, health of teeth) or social aspects (a fresh breath). Due to the attributes of toothpaste other perceived risks, such as financial, operational, psychological risks are unlikely.

Another important aspect is the motivation of trying a new product versus the fear of the failure of the new product.

The probable indicators were integrated into a questionnaire, which was answered by 10 adults aged between 25 -60.

To find out the attitude towards product failure and personal risks, several questions were posed, such as the importance of the dentist and his opinion concerning toothpaste or a ranking about the most important factors for choosing toothpaste. The result was that most of them are not very concerned about the health of their teeth, rather the whitening of the teeth, which might be an indicator for social aspects (for instance: how do I look?) was pertinent.

According to the question about the fear of trying a new toothpaste, most of them are willing to try others, if their brand might not be available or due to recommendations. On the other hand there are some consumers who are brand-loyal due to the familiarity of the brand.

As a result of the evaluation of perceived risks can be stated that there is certainly a presence of perceived risk whereas the level of the risk is very low. A further consequence of this result is that the information search, which is usually elicited by a high-risk level, is either on a minimum level or even not existing. This conclusion is emphasising the author’s assumption of toothpaste as a low involvement product.

The involvement properties

Involvement properties, such as intensity, direction or persistence are regarded as the internal state which the consumer experiences. (Lawson et al)

The intensity of involvement while buying toothpaste will be very low: the consumer might just be a passive receiver of information via television-advertisings, he or she is not an active information seeker. Furthermore he or she has not developed strong brand awareness. The result of the questionnaire even proves that most of the people do not even know the brand name of their toothpaste.

The persistence of involvement “deals with the length of time the consumer remains in a state of involvement”. (Lawson et al, 1999, p 338) The time the buyer is usually involved might be very short as no time for information-seeking etc. is spent.

Response Factors

The response factors deal with consumer behaviour under different involvement levels, i.e. the actions or reactions of the consumer due to the antecedents and the involvement properties. As the low involvement good toothpaste is observed, the low-involvement hierarchy could be employed to illustrate the actions of the consumer: First of all, the consumer has certain cognition of the toothpaste he or she wants to buy. This cognition may be a result of advertising or some form of learning, e.g. modelling, but the knowledge of the attributes of the toothpaste is very small due to a lack of interest. The cognition is followed by the buying behaviour. As the consumer has only small knowledge about the toothpaste, the decision will be influenced of low price or familiarity of the brand. After the purchase, the buyer will built up an attitude, whether the toothpaste meets his needs and requirements, such as taste or white teeth. But how may attitude influence the level of involvement? This item will be investigated in the next chapter.

3. Determining the level of involvement: Roles of learning and attitudes

The last chapter concluded that buying toothpaste is related with a low level of involvement. But what determines the consumer’s assumption of a low involvement good? Two points might be crucial for that determination: learning and attitude.


Although there is a variety of theories and models, which deal with consumer learning, there are only a few, which are relevant for the investigation of low involvement behaviour. As it is known that the consumer will pay very small attention to the information seeking he might not be influenced via cognitive learning, i.e., there is no active perception, no problem solving or insight. The learning about low involvement goods will take place subconsciously. That is why connectionist theories, such as classical conditioning should be taken into account. “The classical conditioning pairs one stimulus with another that already elicits a given response. Over repeated trials the new stimulus will also begin to elicit the same or a very similar response.”(Lawson et al, 1999, p394)

Applying this to the example of the toothpaste brand “Colgate”, the consumer learns the Logo and the colour of the package and associates this with high quality toothpaste. This process can start already in early youth, when the parents are repetitively buying the same brand. Alternatively, it might be learnt by often repeated advertising in television. During the next shopping he or she will recognise the brand, associates it with a high-quality toothpaste and will buy it. As he or she is only low involved and has no interest in gathering information about the product attributes he or she might buy the good only relying on the brand, whereas he may not know the attributes of this specific brand. (van Osselaer, Alba, 2000). For the manufacturer who has achieved this classical conditioning, there are few risks, that the learned about his product will be manipulated due to a phenomenon called blocking. The blocking elicits that “the learning of one predictive cue can ‘block’ the learning of subsequently encountered predictive cues”. (van Osselaer, Alba, 2000, 1) In other words, when a consumer has learned which colour or logo belongs to which brand and associates good toothpaste with it, it will be difficult to make him learn any other attributes, which might be negative or positive.


One outcome from the different processes of learning will be an attitude. In case of a low involvement purchase, the attitude comes usually after the behaviour. The consumer will not make up his mind in advance due to a lack of information search. After the purchase he will evaluate whether he or she likes the toothpaste or not.

Besides the learning there are various factors which influence the attitude development. (Lawson et al, 1999) Personal experience, which is closely linked to the learning, will manipulate the consumer’s attitude, e.g., when he or she is buying toothpaste, whose taste he or she dislikes, another toothpaste will be bought the next time. Another strong factor of the attitude building and development results of the influence of others. Therefore, if a friend tells the consumer, that the teeth are not whitening, although he is using the teeth-whitening toothpaste for already a year, the consumer will probably avoid this toothpaste owing to his attitude.

Attitudes have several characteristics, which mirror the level of involvement.

Firstly the attitude has to have an object. In the investigated case the object might be the toothpaste or to be even more specific the toothpaste brand “Colgate Total”.

Then the attitude will have a direction - either favourable or unfavourable towards the investigated toothpaste brand, whereas the degree and intensity of the attitude is very weak as a result of the low involvement.

Another interesting aspect of attitude in relation to the low-involvement level is the persistence of attitude. Although a persuasive message might influence your attitude, it is likely that the buyer will soon forget the message, as information about toothpaste attributes has not a very high priority. (Sengupta, Goodstein, Boninger, 1997) According to the Elaboration Likelihood Method (ELM) there is the following explanation for this lack of attitude persistence: Although the message, for instance advertising will be received, there is only little motivation to process the information. The message will then be linked to an easy-to-process, peripheral cue. This superficial process will prevent a formation of a strong link between the attitude object and the cue.

Finally it has to be stated that attitude does not necessarily entail behaviour. The power of the relationship between behaviour and attitude might be influenced by several other factors.

4. Evaluation of the Marketing Strategies for “Colgate Total”

In the following chapter, the marketing strategies of the toothpaste brand “Colgate” and especially “Colgate Total” will be described and evaluated.

To get a visual idea how the products of the brand as well as from competitors are placed, a table will be introduced on the following sites. Therefore, the example of the supermarket “„Pak ‘n’ Save“” was examined.

Table 4 .1 Product-Placement and Price of toothpaste First shelf

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Information for the Tables

The rows represent the level of the rows in the shelves - from the bottom to the eye level.

The different cells contain information about brand, name, colour, size and price of the product.

The first table shows the first shelf with products of “Colgate”, although this was not the first shelf to be reached from the main gangway on the way to the registers. “Colgate” products could be found in the second and third shelf.

Table 4.2 Product-Placement and Price of toothpaste Second Shelf

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The “Colgate” toothpaste is available in different kinds of taste, package, size and equipped with different features. Standing in front of this product variety might confuse the consumer. Nevertheless, he or she will always be able to recognise the “Colgate” brand due to its unique logo and the colourcombination of the white scripts/characters on the red background. The author will now concentrate on the “Colgate Total” and compare this type with other “Colgate” and competitor products since there are too many different types of “Colgate” to describe and evaluate.

Concerning the size of the tube, “Colgate” offers two different sizes starting from 45g for “My first Colgate” rising up to 175g for the “Maximum Cavity Protection”. For the chosen product “Total”, there are two different sizes: 90g and 120g. In the author’s point of view, all these different sizes appear a bit confusing, as the low involved consumer is certainly not willing to compare all kinds of different product sizes.

The chosen product offers a variety of product features, for instance protection against cavity, plaque, tartar and gum problems. The unique selling feature of this good is the newly developed ingredient Triclosan, which shall guarantee a longer protection. The name “Total” might indicate that the teeth are totally protected around the clock.

The package fulfils several functions. First of all, the “Colgate” Logo indicates that this product is belonging to the “Colgate”-family. The low involved consumer might associate a certain degree of quality and familiarity with this sign. Furthermore, “Colgate” uses the package for cross-selling other oral products: while opening the package, the consumer will find a hint, that best results will be achieved when using the “Colgate” toothbrush.

In comparison with other packages from “Colgate”, “Total” seems not to be enough eye catching. For an uninformed, low involved consumer, one important aspect is the appearance of the product. Therefore he or she tends to take the “glittering” package, either the “Sensation Whitening” appearing in glittering silver, the “Sensation Baking Soda & Peroxide” appearing in glittering blue or the “Sensation White & Tartar Control” appearing in glittering gold.

In case that the consumer would like to gather information about the different features and ingredients of the toothpaste, information is provided on the package. If a consumer is not satisfied with this information, Colgate offers a free call telephone number, where call centre agents quickly respond and answer all kind of questions. The author states that this is a good customer service, whereas she doubts that many people are using the service due to their low involvement with toothpaste. Having another look on other products of “Colgate”, the company is providing a variety of toothpastes for different kinds of needs, for instance toothpaste for children, for white teeth or for smokers. Furthermore, they are offering other products for oral care such as mouthwash and a range of toothbrushes.


The price plays an important role in the decision-making of a low involved consumer. A buyer of toothpaste might look after a familiar brand but will then choose the cheapest product. As his or her perceived level of risk is very low, it is unlikely that they will pay a higher amount for more quality. The consumer already associates quality with the brand “Colgate”. In order to encourage the purchase of highly priced toothpaste other mechanisms have to be created, for instance a modified advertising campaign or a new definition of the target group.

“Colgate” offers its products in a huge price range. The amount of the prices are an example taken from the supermarket „Pak ‘n’ Save“. The cheapest product is available for 1.79 $ (which is the “Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection” - regular cool mint). The prices increase to the amount of 4.74$ for their newest products “Sensation Whitening”, “Sensation Baking Soda & Peroxide” and “Sensation Whitening & Tartar Control”. As explained above and referring to Table 4.2 these are also the most eye catching products concerning package and placement.

The chosen product “Colgate Total” is placed in the middle of the price range. The 90g tube is offered for 2.59 $, the 120g tube is offered for 3.27 $. For a better comparison, the sizes should be brought on to one base for instance 100g. The price for 100g in the small tube is then 2.88 $, whereas the large tube costs 2.73 $. But this is not obvious for the costumer, who is standing in front of the shelf. Thus the consumer, who is low involved and price-aware, will probably chose the smaller tube, which appears cheaper, although the larger tube offers more value for money.

Finally, the competitors’ pricing strategy should be likewise considered. Besides “Colgate”, there is one other company, who offers a similar product range: SmithKline Beecham with their brand: “Macleans”. Although there is no obvious quality difference, SmithKline Beecham offer nearly all of their products cheaper than “Colgate” does, except the newly launched products, for instance whitening toothpaste, which is more expensive. In spite of the competitors’ lower prices, which might attract low involved consumers, “Colgate” seems to be the market leader in New Zealand owing to the high brand awareness.


As many brand choices of low involvement goods are made in store, a proper placement is crucial.

The products should be available in any supermarket, drugstore or pharmacy; otherwise the manufacturer might face the danger of loosing the consumer in favour of another brand, which has been available.

Before evaluating the placement of “Colgate” products, the reader should keep in mind that the manufacturer has only a restricted influence on the placement of his goods in the stores.

Nowadays, where retailers offer their own brands and the consumer shows only a low brand-loyalty, the retailer have become very independent from the manufacturer. Therefore, it is the issue of the customer development department of the manufacturer to build up a good relationship with the retailchains in order to get an accurate placement.

A certain range of “Colgate” toothpaste is available in every retail outlet. Taken the example of the „Pak ‘n’ Save“, the toothpastes will be found in the shelves near the main gangway, close to the cash registers. Although the “Colgate” products are not positioned directly next to the main gangway, the familiar logo and two shelves covered with “Colgate” products will attract the attention of the costumer.

It is remarkable that none of the “Colgate” toothpastes were placed in the eye-level. Instead of the toothpastes the toothbrushes were placed in this level. As the costumer arrives to buy the toothpaste, which is empty, he will be reminded whether he does not need a new toothbrush as well. Another aspect, which might be confusing for the costumer is that not all the same brand products, such as the “Colgate Sensation Whitening” or the “Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection”, which only differ in size, are placed next to each other. In order to the wide range of “Colgate” toothpastes it is difficult for the consumer to decide whether they are different products or just differ in size. The shelves are all well stocked, although it is difficult to distinguish, whether this is the merit of the management of the supermarket or the influence from a good relationship between retailers and manufacturer.


In order to the low involvement of the consumer, price promotions play an important role while selling toothpaste. “Colgate” promoted two price reductions at the time of the investigation: The first price reduction was for the “Ultrabrite” toothpaste which does not obviously appear as a Colgate brand. The second price promotion was for the “Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection”. However, these price promotions might also depend on the arrangements with the retailers. For general promotions, “Colgate” uses television advertising. Although the different products of the brand are introduced, the main effect is the awareness and the familiarity with the brand “Colgate”. As toothpaste is a low involvement good, the consumer is drawing very little attention to the advertisings as long as they are not exceptional. Subconsciously his or her memory is stimulated, he or she keeps in mind the brand “Colgate”. Therefore the advertising is short, contains small information, but is often repeated, especially during the main television time between 6 and 10 p.m.

In a nutshell the author is of the opinion that “Colgate” has developed efficient marketing strategies. This is certainly one reason why “Colgate” is the global market leader for toothpaste. In the following the author will introduce some alternative marketing strategies which could be additionally applied for a higher involvement of the consumer.

5. Recommendations for Alternative Strategies

For a low involvement good, such as toothpaste, it is difficult to create strategies, which might increase the involvement of the consumer.

One possible strategy might be the attraction of target groups who might have a general tendency to be higher involved with the purchase of toothpaste. For example, older people, whose teeth might have different needs than the ones from younger people, might buy toothpaste, which meets their needs. For instance, middle-aged women are suffering from a lack of calcium. Toothpaste, which has a higher amount of calcium, might be introduced for this target group. It is likely that these consumers are willing to pay a higher price for the additional feature.

Another possibility to increase the involvement is to connect the product with an involving issue. As the New Zealand population is very concerned about their environment, “Colgate” could introduce the toothpaste without package. The ecological aspect, which is important for many New Zealanders, could be promoted via television advertising and signs at the shelves about the ecological awareness of “Colgate”.

The integration of the expert of teeth - the dentist might be another way of involving the consumer. On the one hand a “representative” of the dentists could introduce the product in television advertisings and announce that free small samples will be available at the consumer’s next medical treatment. Then the dentists will be informed about the advantages of the product and the free samples will be provided.

6. Conclusion

To sum it up, the assumption of a low involvement concerning toothpaste purchase could be verified, whereas attitudes and learning are playing an important role for this low level of involvement. The strategies of the chosen product “Colgate Total” meet mainly the requirements for the sale of a low involvement good. To complete the strategies, some ideas for achieving a higher involvement were introduced by the author.

List of references

- Chaudhuri, A.,(2000). A macro analysis of the relationship of product involvement and information search: The role of risk. Journal of Marketing and Practice, Winter 2000.
- Lawson, R., Tidwell, P.,Rainbird, P.,Loudon D., Della Bitta, A.,(1996). Consumer Behaviour in Australia & New Zealand. Australia: McGraw Hill Book Company Australia Pty Limited
- Sengupta, J., Goodstein, R.C., Boninger D.S.(1997). All Cues Are Not Created Equal: Obtaining Attitude Persistence under Low-Involvement Conditions. Journal of consumer research, Vol 23, March 1997.
- van Osselaer, S.M., Alba, J.W.(2000). Consumer Learning and Brand Equity. Journal of consumer research, Vol 27, June 2000.


- Broderick, A.J., Mueller, R.D.,(1999). A theoretical and empirical exegesis of the consumer involvement construct: The psychology of the food shopper. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice. Fall 1999
- Funkhauser, G.R., Parker, R.(1999). An action-based theory of persuasion in marketing. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice. Summer 1999
- Heath, R.,(1999). 'Just popping down to the shops for a packet of image statements': A new theory of how consumers perceive brands. Journal of Market Research Society. April 1999

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Analysis of a tooth paste brand - a low involvement good
University of Auckland
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Viviane Kraetke (Author), 2000, Analysis of a tooth paste brand - a low involvement good, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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