Rejuvenating Colgate’s brand positioning to drive growth in China


Colgate is a global leader in oral care with more than 40% share of the global toothpaste market. Having entered China in 1992, Colgate has become a household name with its slogan “No Cavities” widely known by Chinese consumers.

With the rise of China’s new middle class, the premiumisation trend has been growing in prominence in the personal care category. At the same time, the post-90s and 2000s generations have become the driving force of the category’s growth. Niche brands are increasingly sought after, while leading domestic brands are also gaining momentum. The Colgate brand was losing its vitality and appeal with young consumers in China.

Despite having a clear global brand mission “Everyone Deserves a Future They Can Smile About,” Colgate needed a better way to connect with China’s young consumers. To achieve this ambition, Colgate worked closely with Prophet to rejuvenate the brand with a distinct and vibrant positioning, anchored deep in China’s cultural and consumer insights.


In just two months, we conducted comprehensive consumer research to gain an in-depth understanding of China’s new middle-class and the evolving needs of young consumers. Our insights showed that the new generation of Chinese consumers care more about the present and focus on near-term goals that move their life forward. However, for reasons such as lack of confidence, they often don’t take action against those goals.

Based on this key insight, Prophet worked with the Colgate team to dive deeper and define the positive role that Colgate can play in consumers’ lives. We developed the positioning, “Smile and Go for It” (放开笑放手做) – a proposition rooted in consumers’ desire to define a more passionate life, while anchoring on Colgate’s brand essence of smiling. It encourages consumers to smile with confidence and take action to pursue their dreams and goals, no matter how big or small, and to live out the life they want.

With the positioning identified, Prophet then facilitated workshops with Colgate’s marketing, innovation, e-commerce and design teams to develop the brand activation roadmap. Moreover, Prophet helped Colgate leverage the micro-segmentation work conducted by Tmall. By providing strategic analysis of the segmentation and identifying high-value customer groups, we were able to help the client determine the most relevant product innovations to bring to market. In addition, in order to strengthen the understanding of Colgate’s new brand positioning across internal and external stakeholders, we developed brand guidelines and provided guidance for Colgate’s communication with ad and media agencies.


In July 2019, Colgate launched the “Smile and Go for It” campaign to activate its new brand positioning. Through a series of targeted marketing initiatives, Colgate built aspirational connections with diverse consumer groups who share different passions using film, TV, music, talk shows, workplace, beauty and ACGN (Animation, Comic, Game, Novel), encouraging them to tell their own “Smile and Go for It” stories. In only two months, Colgate’s campaign discussion on Weibo (a Chinese social media platform) had exceeded 420 million views.

Colgate has continued to draw inspiration from the brand positioning developed by Prophet, as well as the reset portfolio strategy, to carry out product innovations. In 2020, Colgate launched a new anti-aging toothpaste, an industry-leading move that created a new premium subcategory. At the same time, Colgate continued to reinforce its effort in building emotional resonance with young consumers. A recent initiative was its partnership with the top reality TV show “CHUANG 2020” as well as Chinese pop icon Wang Yibo.

Colgate’s brand rejuvenation has seen monumental success, with its top-of-mind awareness among 18- to 29- year-olds increasing from 13% in 2019 to 17% in Q2 2020. Once again, Colgate is a key player and driving significant business growth in China.

“With a thorough understanding of the challenges we faced, Prophet unpacked the tension and passions of Chinese consumers. Through a meticulous validation process, they crafted a positioning that’s true to both the Colgate brand and Chinese consumers. In addition, they were very good at navigating multinational companies, and bridged that understanding to drive maximum impact.”  -Vicky Hu, Marketing Director, China Brand Marketing – Core Brands

“Through a meticulous validation process, Prophet crafted a positioning that’s true to both the Colgate brand and Chinese consumers to drive maximum impact.”

Vicky Hu
Marketing Director, China Brand Marketing – Core Brands



percent increase in brand awareness amongst targets