Colgate Bounces Back from Brush Swap PR Disaster as Competitors Pounce


The much-hyped Colgate Electric ToothBrush Swap launched in London’s Waterloo Train Station last week, promising to exchange an old electric toothbrush for the brand’s new ProClinical A1500 product, worth £170 ($256).

However, by 5am, hundreds had crowded into the rail station, toothbrushes in hand, clamboring for the freebie. To the dismay of plenty, the brand’s supply of 750 new brushes was depleted by 7am, causing chaos at the station and a full-blown PR nightmare for Colgate. 

Colgate severely misjudged the number of people, resulting in consumers and Rail officials calling the PR stunt a “fiasco” and “mayhem,” the Mirror reports. founder Martin Lewis said, “Colgate bit off more than it could chew with this poorly planned promotion.”[more]

The brand’s struggles were documented on Twitter, as it attempted to keep consumers informed about the troublesome situation brewing in Waterloo. 

A spokesman for Network Rail said, “Waterloo often holds promotional events but the demand for the Colgate stand exceeded everyone’s expectations,” according to the London Evening Standard. “To accommodate passengers and those wanting to take advantage of the offer, we are working with Colgate to try and rearrange the promotion to take place on another day outside of peak times,” however the promotion was eventually banned from the station. 

While Colgate worked overtime to fix its botched promotion, competitor Phillips wasted no time jumping on the opportunity to draw a comparison and promote its own dental products. The company published a print ad stating, “The best things aren’t free,” showing the brand’s Sonicare electric toothbrush with a tagline: “The UK’s No. 1 sonic toothbrush. And worth every penny.” The brand continued to fire back with its own swap promotion, offering up 50 Philips Sonicare FlexCare electric toothbrushes to Twitter users that tweet a picture of their old toothbrush. 

Within two days of the promotion’s start, Colgate retooled the giveaway into one based online, giving consumers the opportunity to register for the now 7,000 ProClinical brushes.