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Octopus TV Failure Awards – Colgate Lasagna

Updated: Dec 15, 2019

Octopus TV Failure Awards – Colgate Lasagna

In this weekly series, Andrew Eborn, President of Octopus TV and Knot The Truth and Founder of the Octopus TV Failure Awards, shines a light on the products and services, brand extensions and campaigns that failed to take off and have as a result earned entry into the Octopus TV Failure Awards.

It’s been estimated that 80-90% of all innovation projects and 95% of all new products fail - but we seldom hear about the failures.

Just like individuals, companies try to hide their failures. They are embarrassed.

As Andrew Eborn points out “We always celebrate success whilst hiding the failures that led to that success. The Octopus TV Failure Awards finally give failure the attention it deserves. If necessity is the mother of invention then failure is the father of success. From failed products and services to campaigns and ads we would rather forget, we want to encourage organisations and brands to be better at learning from failures not just ignoring them and pretending they never happened.”

This week’s nominee is toothpaste brand Colgate’s lasagne.

Colgate-Palmolive, the small soap and candle business that William Colgate began in New York City early in the 19th century is now - more than 200 years later - a truly global company serving hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide.

Ian Cook, chairman, president, chief executive, chief cook and bottle washer points out “our 200-year history reflects the strength and innovation that our people have used to constantly transform our company and identify new opportunities.”

Colgate is very proud of its rich 200 year history and rightly so.

On its website Colgate highlights several key events over the last two centuries including:

1817 First Colgate advertisement appears in a New York newspaper.

1896 Colgate introduces toothpaste in a collapsible tube

1947 Ajax cleanser is launched, establishing a powerful now-global brand equity for cleaning products.

1966 Palmolive dishwashing liquid is introduced. Today it is sold in over 35 countries.

1968 Colgate toothpaste adds MFP Fluoride, clinically proven to reduce cavities.

1983 Colgate Plus toothbrush is introduced. Today over 1.6bn Colgate toothbrushes are sold annually worldwide.

There is, however, no mention in this impressive list of the launch in 1982 of Colgate Kitchen Entrees, a range of frozen ready meals.

According to a number of sources, Colgate wanted to enter the lucrative ready meal market harnessing the strong brand loyalty it had so successfully developed – the hope apparently being that customers would enjoy eating Colgate dinners and then brushing their teeth with Colgate toothpaste.

Why did it fail?

Brand extensions can be very successful, enabling new products to be introduced under a well-established existing brand name. Apple is a prime example at the top of the tree.

Generally, to benefit from the existing brand, however, the new products need to be consistent with core brand values and customer perceptions and expectations. What values and expectations are conjured up when customers think of Colgate? Colgate is strongly associated with health and oral hygiene. The very name and logo instantly suggest that fresh, minty taste.

Associating the brand with food was clearly not going to work. Who wants toothpaste flavoured pasta?

What could have been done differently?

Generally, products that have nothing in common should not be linked. Colgate should have launched with a different brand name in the same way as they maintain Hills Pet Nutrition as a separate brand having acquired the company in 1976.

Market research would have made this clear.

Fake news?

Colgate Kitchen Entrees do not feature in Colgate’s summary of its impressive 200 year history. So why is that? Is Colgate too embarrassed by its fanciful foray into food or is this perhaps just another fake news story which has managed to fool the media and marketing industry for years?

Colgate Kitchen Entrees are certainly frequently cited as a text book example of how brand extensions can fail. I have my views – but let’s not allow the truth to stand in the way of a good story!

It would be great if Colgate was to clarify once and for all, though...

In the meantime, Colgate Lasagne – with the white sauce oozing out so deliciously reminiscent of toothpaste – is this week’s nominee for The Octopus TV Failure Awards

Yum Yum - tongue tinglingly tasty!

Send your nominations for Octopus TV Failure Awards with full description and images to From failed products and services to campaigns and ads we would rather forget, we want to encourage organisations and brands to be better at learning from failures, not just ignoring them and pretending they never happened.

Follow Andrew Eborn @OctopusTV @AndrewEborn @KnotTheTruth

Andrew Eborn

Andrew Eborn is a lawyer, strategic business adviser, producer, writer, presenter, magician and speaker. Andrew has specialised in international licensing and global rights’ management for several years and has been actively involved with the negotiation, acquisition and international exploitation of various major licences enabling companies to maximise the return on their rights as well as assisting with the strategic development of their international businesses.

Andrew Eborn is now working with several businesses across the IP value chain including the creation and licensing of content in all media from recording, publishing, distribution, supply of talent, management, promotion, immersive technology and holograms.

Businesses include:

Octopus TV Ltd ( award winning company revolutionising the way content is created and distributed) @octopustv

Knot The Truth Ltd ( KTT) with RJ Gibb, son of Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, launched in Cannes. KTT already has a strong line up of programmes, tv, film and music productions, live events, theatrical shows and holographic experiences.

Andrew Eborn is a columnist, broadcaster and regular presenter and speaker around the world

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