Colgate’s Distasteful Toothpaste
Indeed, as ‘Darkie’ had been present and successful in the Asian markets for more than 60 years with absolutely no issues, Colgate assumed that they would not have issues either. Unfortunately, things escalated very fast after the ICCR started a fight against the company’s offensive product back on the domestic market.
Letting things go was not the right solution. Civil rights groups and minorities should be taken seriously because they can be really powerful. In this case for example, even the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania urged the company to change their name and logo.
Regarding the advertising now, after changes had been applied to the product, the marketing campaign insisted on the fact that the product was still the same so the company would not lose its loyal customers. In Chinese, the following statement was added to the marketing campaign: ‘Only the English name is being changed. Black Man Toothpaste is still Black Man Toothpaste’. With this statement, the company made sure it would keep its reputation and brand image.
If the toothpaste advertising had been entirely changes, from the logo, to the name, both in English and Chinese, I believe it would have been very likely that the company would have sacrificed consumer brand loyalty. Indeed, customers are committed to the brand; they are loyal and keep buying the same product because they had always been satisfied. Altering the image and meaning of the product would have been risky and the company could have lost many of its most loyal customers.
This could be one of the reasons why Colgate did not respond quickly to domestic complaints. Not only was the company not able to make decisions on its own, regarding the contract it had with the Hawley and Hazel group, but also, I believe that if they had decided to radically change the product’s image, they would have lost many of their loyal customers in the Asian markets because the ‘Darkie’ product they were used to would not have been the same anymore.
Here, because of this agreement, Colgate was not able to deal with the issue due to the fact the company was not allowed to make decisions. If Colgate had the right to make decisions, may be they would have taken the issue more seriously when civil rights groups and the ICCR asked them to change the product due to its offensive aspect. Instead of that, they just let Hawley and Hazel managing the partnership the way they wanted. The ‘no management rights’ clause made Colgate absolutely powerless regarding this issue.
Colgate should have known that the ‘Darkie’ toothpaste would be an issue from its domestic market point of view, and therefore, the company should have made sure that during the negotiations process, the Hawley and Hazel group would have either agreed to change the name and logo of the product in order to avoid any misunderstanding or to share the management rights so that in the event of an issue like the one that occurred, Colgate would have had the opportunity to make the decision to change the name and logo instead of staying powerless.