Birth of an Icon: CREST
If you think about it, Crest toothpaste has made a huge impact in the realm of preventive healthcare. Those two words were not commonly used together seventy years ago. Building a business on the idea of preventing something could have been seen as a risky idea. Now, it has become a revolutionary medical and lifestyle strategy embraced by consumers and doctors around the world.
Just a couple of generations ago, people only brushed their teeth about once a week or so. Tooth decay, as you might expect, was rampant…impacting about 95% of the U.S. population. Lower averages in some areas were attributed to fluoride in the public drinking water, so P&G researchers tried to make it work in toothpaste.
It wasn’t easy. First, researchers had to find the right compound. That started in the 1940s, and took years. Then the American Dental Association (ADA) had to be convinced that the product was proven effective against tooth decay.
After several more years and a lot of perseverance, the ADA finally concluded in 1960 that this product, Crest, was deserving of Level B recognition as being effective in preventing cavities – a first for any toothpaste.
Crest had been on the market for five years already without that endorsement, but once it was awarded, demand for Crest skyrocketed. Within six months, it was not only the number one toothpaste in the U.S., it was also changing the way dentists thought about oral care.
Until then, dentists’ main business was restorative work. The Crest Professional Services program showed dentists that prevention was possible, which helped redefine the profession. In 1976, Crest was honored by the American Chemical Society as being among the great discoveries of the past 100 years.
P&G built Crest into a strong oral care leader. Soon consumers were successfully preventing previous levels of tooth decay, so they began looking for another benefit – the look of their smile. Crest once again pioneered a way to give them what they wanted with whitening.
Crest began adding whitening ingredients to its toothpaste in the 1990s but introduced a new innovation in 2000 with Crest Whitestrips. The thin strips that conformed and adhered to teeth were unlike anything else on the market. Within a year, retail sales for Whitestrips were $225 million.
Around the same time, Crest added a battery-operated toothbrush called SpinBrush to its oral care line up products. At a time when most power brushes were $30-$100, we sold the Crest SpinBrush for under $6. Within the same year, we took it to more than 20 countries, and soon the Crest SpinBrush was outselling all other toothbrushes in the U.S.
Whitestrips and SpinBrush reestablished Crest as an innovation leader, and in 2002, Crest became a billion-dollar brand. Recently, toothpaste and Whitestrips were added to the Crest 3D White Collection and the Pro-Health Clinical line, which provides advanced formulas to reduce plaque on teeth and maintain a healthy, clean mouth.
We’re proud and humbled that Crest is now a regular part of the everyday oral hygiene routine for millions of consumers. Let’s face it, brushing wasn’t a regular habit, toothpastes weren’t nearly as effective and smiles not as bright before it came along.
Crest changed things, helping millions understand the concept that preventing decay and disease is a solid strategy to keeping healthy.