Colgate-Palmolive : advertising & marketing profile

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Personal care giant Colgate-Palmolive is generally associated with toothpaste and soap, but in fact its broad portfolio also includes petfood, deodorants, fabric softeners, household cleaners and detergents. Brands include Ajax, Speed Stick, Mennen and Hill's Science Diet, alongside the two products that make up the company's name. Colgate is the world's #1 toothpaste and toothbrush brand; Palmolive soap is the third largest soap brand, now covering a growing range of haircare products as well as soaps. Colgate-Palmolive is also truly international, deriving around 75% of its sales outside the US. Its biggest region, in fact, is not its domestic market but Latin America. See also Colgate oral care profile.

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Adbrands Company Profiles provide a detailed analysis of the history and current operations of leading advertisers, agencies and brands worldwide, and include a critical summary which identifies key strengths and weaknesses. Adbrands Account Assignments tracks account management for the world's leading brands and companies, including details of which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries for major markets. Subscribers may access the following website links:

Colgate-Palmolive website


Colgate Ajax
Palmolive soaps Klorix
Hill's Science Diet Speed Stick
Murphy Oil Soap Darlie
Irish Spring Sorriso
Kolynos Dentagard

Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 12th Jul 2019: New Colgate-Palmolive CEO Noel Wallace signed off on his first major acquisition for the group, with a deal to acquire French company Laboratoires Filorga Cosmetiques for almost €1.5bn. The purchase is Colgate's first move into premium skincare. Filorga is a premium anti-aging brand focused primarily on facial care. Originally founded in France in 1978, the brand is now sold in over 60 countries with its largest markets being France, Italy, Spain and Greater China. 

Adbrands Daily Update 12th Feb 2019: Seven months on from his elevation to group president & COO, Noel Wallace's promotion to CEO was announced by Colgate-Palmolive. He will succeed Ian Cook at the beginning of April; Cook moves to executive chairman for up to a year before retiring.

Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Jul 2018: There were two senior promotions at Colgate-Palmolive. Noel Wallace moves up to group president & COO, becoming the effective heir-in-waiting to CEO Ian Cook. Justin Skala becomes EVP, chief growth & strategy officer with oversight of multiple functions including marketing.

Adbrands Weekly Update 1st Feb 2018: Colgate-Palmolive reported a weak close to the year, with organic growth below analysts' expectations, and intense pressure on pricing, especially in North America. That prompted a sharp markdown in the company's share price. Full year revenues were up almost 2% to $15.45bn. However an even steeper rise in expenses and a higher tax charge caused attributable earnings to fall 8% to $2.02bn.

Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd May 2017: According to the industry rumour machine, Colgate-Palmolive is the latest corporate target in the cross-hairs of predatory investment group 3G Capital, owners of Kraft Heinz, Burger King and Tim Hortons and other brands. Best-known for its market-leading oral care business, Colgate also has a solid position in personal cleaning (Palmolive) and in pet foods (Hill's Science Diet), and retains a small collection of household care brands, mostly in international markets. 3G is far from the only potential bidder: P&G, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson would be unlikely to let the business go without an offer of their own. Colgate-Palmolive CEO Ian Cook has reportedly signalled he would be open to a deal at $100 per share, or a total valuation of $89bn. Before the rumours emerged, Colgate was trading at under $72, or a total value of around $64bn.

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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: Colgate-Palmolive is one of the world's longest-established manufacturers, and celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2006. The business was established in New York City in 1806 by William Colgate, the son of an Englishman who had emigrated to the newly independent America with his family only a decade or so before. The younger Colgate learned his trade with his father in Baltimore, before moving to New York to set up on his own, making "Soap, Mould & Dipt Candles", as well as Pearl Starch. Soap quickly became one of the company's main lines, and Colgate began to perfume its products towards the middle of the century. William Colgate died in 1857, passing control to his son Samuel, who established Cashmere Bouquet as one of the country's leading perfumed soaps. By the early 1870s, Colgate & Company had begun to look for other products it could sell through pharmacies. 

A logical natural step forward was dental cream. Toothpaste was at the time a comparatively little used substance, other than among the wealthy. Most people used bicarbonate of soda, rubbed on by hand, but gradually individual chemists had begun to mix their own "creme dentifrice", mixing the soda with glycerine to make a paste and adding other substances as varied as chalk, borax and even sugar. These pastes gained popularity during the second half of the 19th century. Colgate introduced its first mass-produced dental cream in 1873, with some success. Initially it was sold in a small earthenware jar, but towards the end of the century, the company borrowed the process developed by a Connecticut dentist, Dr Washington Sheffield, to package paste in a collapsible soft tin tube, the predecessor to the plastic tubes used today. This new packaging joined what was already a huge range of almost 3,000 products sold by Colgate, including 625 different perfumes and 160 types of toilet soap.

At around the same time, The BJ Johnson Soap Company of Milwaukee had introduced a green bath soap made from a mixture of palm and olive oils. It was initially designed to float, in emulation of Procter & Gamble's extraordinarily successful Ivory, but failed to made significant inroads into the more established brand's sales. As a result, the product was reformulated to be heavier and more exotic. It was relaunched from around 1905 as a rival to imported French toilet soaps, with an aggressive marketing campaign masterminded by the Lord & Thomas agency. This approach proved far more popular. The brand quickly established itself, and Johnson's changed its name in 1916 to The Palmolive Company. Ten years later Palmolive took over another soap company, Kansas-based Peet Brothers, best-known for its Crystal White laundry soap, and was itself engulfed by Colgate in 1928 to form Colgate-Palmolive-Peet. This was by now a substantial international company. Colgate had begun to sell its dental creams in Britain from 1908, while Palmolive had been introduced to the country through branches of Boots The Chemist since 1913. By the end of the 1920s, the combined group  had offices throughout Europe, as well as in Latin America, Asia and South Africa.

Following the Second World War, Colgate-Palmolive-Peet (as it was known until 1953) diversified into household cleaners, launching Ajax and Fab. The company also established new manufacturing bases in Europe and the Far East, buying up local soap makers. Washing-up liquid was launched under the Palmolive brand in 1966, and by the following year group sales had topped $1bn a year. The move into petfoods came in 1976, with the acquisition of Hill's. A number of other businesses were acquired, including the Helena Rubinstein cosmetics company, but most of these were sold off in a company-wide restructuring during the 1980s.

In 1985, Colgate developed its Asian business by taking a 50% stake in local toothpaste brand Darkie. The name was changed four years later to Darlie after complaints over the name and its "gollywog" branding. In 1987, Colgate broadened its soap range to include liquid soaps, marketed through its Softsoap Enterprises subsidiary. Other acquisitions included Javex Bleach (1990), Murphy Oil Soap wood cleaner and international rights to Pfizer's Plax mouthwash (1991). In 1992, the company acquired deodorant business Mennen, and bolstered its liquid soaps business with SC Johnson's European soap business the following year. In 1995, the company bought $300m Latin American oral care business Kolynos from American Home Products for $1bn, and Argentinean business Odol Saic.

The company set an advertising industry precedent in 1995, when it consolidated all its worldwide advertising with Young & Rubicam. In 1997 it began a $100m marketing assault in the US to support the launch of its new Colgate Total toothpaste, already available internationally. The success of the brand gave Colgate market leadership in the US over Procter & Gamble's Crest for the first time since the 1950s. In 1999, the group launched a new range of Palmolive Naturals spray antiperspirants across central and eastern Europe and the Far East, in a bid to dent market share of leaders P&G and Unilever. Later that year the group was forced to recall almost 114,000 tubes of Ultra-Brite toothpaste in France after finding evidence of bacterial contamination in samples. At the end of 2000, the group pulled out of the detergent business in Mexico, selling its Viva brand to Henkel.

In 2004 the group announced plans for a major global restructuring program, cutting up to 12% of jobs and almost a third of its factories worldwide by 2008. See full profile for current activities

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