Colgate Vending Machine Dispenses Free Samples With Every Sweet Treat

Considering how consistently it’s drilled into us as children, it’s surprisingly how rarely you see advertising campaigns that target dental health in adults. Sure, you see lots about whitening, a few about sensitive teeth, but nothing about plain old “Don’t Forget to Brush” dental hygiene. This is odd considering that we have more constant access to high sugar foods now than ever before, but it seems that the assumption is if you aren’t a regular tooth brusher by the time you reach adulthood, all hope is lost.

Not so with this new guerrilla marketing campaign from Colgate called The Sweetest Treat.

The Campaign

In The Sweetest Treat campaign, Colgate rewired some vending machines to spit out sample Colgate toothpaste tubes with every sweet treat bought from the machine, while reminding them to brush. They worked with existing machines located in various locations and let them work as usual. The response was, as they said themselves, ‘Cavity Prevention In A Relevant Medium’.

Something Unexpected

It’s always fun to add the unexpected into the everyday, sometimes mundane, life of the general consumer, and we’re loving how Colgate has managed that in this campaign. Unlike the unexpected god of guerrilla marketing Coca Cola, Colgate has totally boycotted any branding or logo placement on the vending machines that might betray their hidden purpose. Instead, they’ve relied on the power of surprise to better communicate their message.

People aren’t expecting anything to happen at the vending machine beyond what they know will happen: a sweet treat. So, when they’re also presented with a sample Colgate, the surprise is a minty surge of marketing power that leaves a memorable impression.

Brands For A Greater Good

It doesn’t take a marketing genius to figure out that it’s easier to sell a brand to people when you link it with a cause for the greater good. As other brands have done with fun and happiness, Colgate has worked to better the public image of their brand by making them an advocate for good dental hygiene. This is clever because unlike many products, toothpaste isn’t what we consider an optional extra. You know you’re going to buy it, and all that remains is choosing a brand to use.

By aligning themselves with dental hygiene, as well as with the age old practice of giving people something for nothing, Colgate is ensuring that people who participate, as well as those who observe, will consider Colgate the brand that is in line with the dental hygiene to the wider public.

Not Enough Brand?

What remains to be seen, for us anyway, is whether this campaign is guaranteed to bring Colgate to the forefront of dental hygiene, or just encourage people to brush after eating something sweet. Although their forgoing of vending machine branding is smart from a surprise point of view, it also gives them very few opportunities to identify the brand behind the campaign. Even the campaign video only contains a couple of logo featuring shots, and that is amidst the busy setting of a vending machine filled with identifiable brands. The juxtaposition could be their purpose, but it isn’t as powerful as they might have hoped.

So is it too little branding? At this point it’s probably too soon to tell, but we can say that although we loved the concept, the video failed to make a squeaky-clean impression and although it’s definitely brushing after sweets, it might not be Colgate on our bristles.


Advertising Agency: Y&R Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Executive Creative Director: Sylvia Soler
Creative Director: Gerardo Vazquez
Art Director: Luigui Rodriguez
Editor: Arnaldo Lopez
Producer: Yarelis De Jesus
Published: January 2014