Stalking the Oral Health Aisle
I always end up at the supermarket during rush hour. Checkout lines are pouring out in the aisles, and I’m only here to grab a handful of things anyway. By the time I make it into the food aisles I’m dodging families with roaming children, and moving around abandoned half-filled carts.
However, when it’s time to grab that new tube of toothpaste I’m shocked at what I see. In spite of the chaos in the rest of the supermarket there are two people in the oral health aisle, and both of them are on their way out. One woman walks up to the toothpaste selection, glances at the wall for all of three seconds, grabs a red box toothpaste and leaves the aisle just as quickly as she entered. At first I’m shocked at the speed of this purchase, but I’m about to do the same thing: walk up to the toothpaste selection, spend three seconds figuring out where my brand of choice is and leave the oral health aisle.
I know this routine isn’t unique to me, and the women in the Chester ShopRite. People spend such a small amount of time choosing their toothpaste compared to anything else in the supermarket. I’ve spent 30 minutes deciding between two different birthday cards, and I’m not even comfortable disclosing how long I’ve spent picking out the right combination of sun chips and hummus.
What’s the story behind this practice of speedy toothpaste purchasing? Have people really done enough research that they know exactly which toothpaste is right for them, or has advertising been so successful that buying toothpaste is brand loyalty at its extreme?
One major influence on the ‘research-oriented’ side of toothpaste purchasing is a recommendation from your dental hygienist. An RDH’s recommendation is just as strong as an advertisement in a magazine or website sidebar. I’ve been buying the same bottle of mouthwash for six years based on a recommendation from my old RDH. However, a cool shaped bottle with an
eye-popping visual could just as easily pull someone away from his or her RDH’s recommendation.
In a perfect world it would be a combination of research and brand loyalty. You can be a Nike devotee, but would you really go out and buy the same pair of Air Force 1s every time you need a new pair of shoes? No, you’d spend time looking over the selection, comparing prices and sizes before you made your purchase. Well, after my time stalking the oral health aisle in a variety of supermarkets, I think I know what’s influencing the average person’s toothpaste purchase.
Just about every oral health aisle is the same, two to four people in the aisle for a very short amount of time. No one has a coupon and is searching for a deal, no one’s holding two boxes in their hands and comparing prices; no one’s holding one box and looking at the list of ingredients. Everyone does the same thing: they grab their brand of choice and bail.
Was it an awesome TV ad that got Mitch to stick with Arm & Hammer? Was it the recommendation of his dental hygienist? Could it have just been the brand that his parents had in the house when he was growing up? I can’t be certain. I felt strange enough stalking the customers in the oral health aisle, let alone walking up to them and asking them about the nature of their toothpaste purchase. What do you think influences your patients’ purchases? Let us know!
1. The success of advertising and marketing campaigns?
2. A strong recommendation from an RDH?
3. A good amount of research done on the patients’ own time?
4. Having used one brand for so long that it’s simply a purchasing habit?
5. Something I’ve overlooked entirely?