Back in the day, there were stories about Soviet Union emigres who found going to a grocery store in America a terrible ordeal of choice. Used to buying bread or toothpaste or cereal typically identified simply as bread, toothpaste, or cereal, respectively, former Soviet shoppers found an unimaginable array of choices for one staple. My experience of late isn’t that much different. The toothpaste selection is the simplest example.
Crest — of P&G branding fame — offers an array of toothpastes and for the life of me, I can’t figure out which one I should get. The same holds for Colgate, Arm & Hammer, Pepsodent, Closeup, Sensodyne, Aquafresh, and as Yule Bruner in “The King and I” proclaimed with swagger, “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera”. Crest, for example, lists these brands on its site:
I get that some people need something for sensitivity (it’s why Sensodyne exists). But do we need all the choices around whitening, enamel protection, deep cleaning, outlast whitening, scope whitening, whitening therapy, sensitivity plus whitening plus scope, pro-health whitening (is this for professional athletes or professionals in general), strawberry-flavored toothpaste for kids, and my favorite, 3D white brilliance blast whitening? And what could 3D possibly mean in this category? Do I have to wear those funny glasses to appreciate it? And why are some designated as toothpaste and others aren’t? Clearly, I don’t need the strawberry flavored one, but must wonder, gee, will it be better than the outlast whitening one? And those that are tagged with a plus sign, make me wonder plus what? Why don’t they all have + signs?
Brands with sub-branding only serve to confuse consumers. At the very least, the offerings could be simplified. This holds true for virtually every personal hygiene product — soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, deodorant — not to mention the plethora of lipsticks, make-ups, perfumes, and the countless array of haircare products. It’s a store stocker’s nightmare.
Heaven forbid that each of these sub-bands has a product manager who’s convinced of the absolute qualities of his or her brand’s ability to do what exactly? Clean teeth better than the other brands — from the SAME manufacturer — let alone a competitive brand from Colgate or whatever? Invariably we end up choosing what we started with as kids or get the one our dentist recommends (is he or she on the take, I wonder?). How many of Crest’s brands will last? Do they exist mostly to imply that nobody knows oral health like Crest, making your grocery store aisle a showcase of power and depth? The brand I use only has only four options where I shop, so it must be subpar. Yet, my teeth haven’t noticed. My dentist hasn’t either. But he does give me sample toothpaste and floss every time I visit. I save them for when I’m traveling. The free stuff works pretty well from what I can tell.
At home, I use an Arm & Hammer whitening something or other because it comes in two packs at a discount. Maybe it’s called eternal whitening or blast-off clean or deep-cleaning gum power or some other string of adjectives to make my choice more even more fraught with worry, wonder, and what the fuck.
©2019 John Hofmeister. All rights reserved. You’ve been warned in little type.
When I'm not writing for clients, I write about things that interest me. Quite of bit of satire, a genre that has become increasingly difficult to work in since reality has become such a farce.