Tom's Of Maine Polishes Its Purpose-Driven Edge

Colgate-Palmolive is out to rejuvenate Tom’s of Maine natural personal care line, with new products, packaging and marketing. It’s also beta-testing a D2C launch. And it’s got big plans for sharpening up its corporate purpose, finding new ways to connect with consumers. Esi Seng, general manager, tells Marketing Daily what’s behind the changes.

Marketing Daily: Let’s start with the most visible change: the new packaging. It’s always a bit of a risk. What are you hoping it accomplishes?

Esi Seng: We’ve been around since 1970, and were the first natural toothpaste in the U.S. We wanted to lean into that past a little bit, so the new packaging is covered with the kinds of buttons and patches for jean jackets that were popular back in the ‘70s. These little buttons reflect ways Tom’s helps the environment -- a sort of mosaic reminding people that even the smallest actions can lead to big change. It’s kind of a visual vernacular.



We’ve also started selling direct-to-consumers for the first time -- we’re testing our D2C offer. So that’s another change people can see right now.

Marketing Daily: Colgate-Palmolive acquired the brand back in 2007, and since then, many mainstream brands have charged into the natural space, and many more niche brands have started. Is this an effort to stand out?

Seng: Yes. So Tom and Kate Chappell founded this beautiful brand before it was trendy to think about “natural,” brand purpose or sustainability. We think of ourselves as the OG. It really is the brand’s DNA.

Today, over 73% of the population is interested in natural brands. Tom's was ahead of its time in terms of mission, wanting to do something good for the planet. We hope the new packaging and marketing campaign, which we are getting close to announcing, is both a flashback to the past, but also a nod to the future.

Marketing Daily: What can you say now about the new marketing?

Seng: The idea is turning up the volume on the thing that Tom’s has also always believed in. We’ve got a new equity statement, and we’re refreshing our “Giving for goodness” program. We want to partner with organizations in a bigger, bolder and more visible way. The new campaign is all about celebrating and recognizing people out there who are doing good in their communities. We feel that we're the activists for the activist of everyday.

Marketing Daily: What about new products?

Seng: Our products will continue to be natural and sustainable, but they’ll be more purpose-driven. For example, we’ll be releasing a “Save the Animals” children’s toothpaste line with 10% of its proceeds benefiting a global conservation organization.

Marketing Daily: In many ways, your role as a purpose-driven brand has gotten drowned out. Every brand claims to be purpose-driven these days, and in the last year, corporate purpose has become ubiquitous. How do you reclaim your spot?

Seng: This is a double-edged sword that I’ll happily take. The fact that we have so many people in so many more organizations doing this mission has been successful. Not just in the U.S. but around the world, people want products for more than their own enjoyment -- they want it to be good for their community. So more companies doing this? That’s a win for the planet, and to some degree, we welcome that kind of competition.

Marketing Daily: How do you think consumers feel about the authenticity of many of these brands?

Seng: Some are doing it opportunistically, and there is some greenwashing. Those brands will just be a blip. But there are lots of companies trying to make meaningful change. That’s good for a company like Tom’s, because it ups the ante. It fuels us with more passion to do more good.

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