Re-generating a mature market
A SmithKline Beecham case study

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Page 5: The launch

Smithkline Beecham 2 Diagram 1The launch of Dr.Best Flex went ahead on the 2nd May 1988 and Dr.Best’s declining fortunes were immediately reversed. The brand’s market share increased steadily and by 1990 Lingner + Fischer were number two again in Germany behind the Blendax brand produced by Procter & Gamble. Lingner + Fischer were convinced that they had a chance to dominate the market. At the end of the day, it was the tomato that was to spearhead the success of the new product. Over the next few years, Lingner + Fischer introduced a range of attractive line extensions - the Compact, Sensitive, Junior and Design variants. These continued to take the German toothbrush market by storm.

There is a saying that “imitation is the surest sign of flattery.” However, in business it is certain that a brilliant idea will be quickly copied. Anticipating this reaction, Lingner + Fischer started developing the second generation of new toothbrushes immediately. The “Flex and Direct” were launched in 1993 and within a year the new toothbrush was rolled out across Europe, the US and Canada. Dr. Best’s market share has continued to increase and the brand took over market leadership in Germany in early 1995 and globally SmithKline Beecham are driving this market.

Market leadership

Dr. Best’s incredible success in Germany is shown by the movement of Brand Share from approximately 6% in early 1988 to approximately 36% in 1996. At the same time there has been a fall in sales of the Blendax brand so that their market share has fallen from 58% in 1984 to 28% in 1995. This was primarily due to:

  • Superior product innovation originating in the Dr.Best “Flex” product, with flexible handle to “SchwingKopf” with added flexible “head” and currently “InterDent” with both previous features and different lengths of bristles to clean more effectively.
  • A premium price. The product is innovatory and has extensive benefits over and above those provided by rival products.
  • Strong communications using the Dr.Best Tomato commercial.
  • Strong point of sales and promotional activities.

Not only has the Dr.Best Flex and its extensions led to a reversal of the fortunes of Lingner + Fischer in this sector, it has also led to an expansion of the German and world toothbrush market. A mature market has therefore been transformed. For example, in 1986, the average number of toothbrushes sold in Germany was at 1 brush per capita per year. Currently, this stands at 1.8 per head (German dentists recommend a minimum of four brushes per head per annum). Data from the UK indicates that we have similar toothbrush consumption patterns to Germany, while highest consumption occurs in Japan at 3.1 and Switzerland at 2.7 per head. Toothbrush sales are now making up an important part of SmithKline Beecham’s oral care portfolio.

In 1986, SmithKline Beecham sold four million Dr.Best toothbrushes in Germany. In 1996, SmithKline Beecham world-wide sales, under the Aquafresh, Dr.Best and Binaca brand names, exceeded 120 million toothbrushes. Forty million of these were sold in Germany under the Dr.Best brand, while 20 million were sold in the rest of Europe and 60 million in North America and other parts of the world under the Aquafresh brand.

SmithKline Beecham | Re-generating a mature market
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