Will Colgate Take on Coalgate to Protect its Brand?


Time and again, companies have amassed forces to protect their widely-loved brands from being hijacked or tainted. Significant budgets are allocated to pay reputation management firms to monitor the buzz surrounding well-known brands and their competitors.

In fact, the power of social media is being explored and harnessed in this direction as well. When ICANN introduced the .xxx top level domain for porn sites, giants like YouTube and several world class universities rushed to book domains containing their names to prevent their reputation from being abused.

On Getting Blackened By Coal

Now that a fresh multi-billion dollar scam involving India’s coal industry has been unearthed, will leading consumer brand Colgate find a reason to protest the use of its homophone (a word that sounds like other word, but with different spelling, in this case being Colgate and Coalgate) for the most unpleasant of reasons?


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Don’t link us with the scamsters!

Colgate-Palmolive could head straight to the government agency Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and get them to ban the hysterical media from using the word “Coalgate” to refer to the “Mother of All Scams” (Here is a look at Top 10 corruption scams in India before this one…).

Violators could be aggressively pursued, and forced to comply or pay up fines. Sorry, no prizes this time for guessing the result – there will be a sharp rise in the brand visibility for Colgate.

Colgate and Colgate-Palmolive would occupy the minds of every shopper looking for choices, giving their competitors sleepless nights for quite a while.

Right from the initiation of the proceedings, to the final outcome, whichever direction it ends up, there is a potential for incredible levels of noise generated by the trigger happy, poorly regulated Indian media.

Twitter and Facebook will be flooded with witticisms from an energetic user base. The blogosphere will instantly join in the fun as well.


What’s in a name?

Getting mass population to talk about a product is a dream come true for any brand at any stage. However, does Colgate really need to go through the stunt of moving a regulatory body, given the fact that it is among the most trusted of all Indian brands anyway?

Colgate has been synonymous with toothpaste long before India’s Independence, and seems to have a bright future ahead. In my opinion, it could be no more than just an annoyance to have future generations mistake today’s massive scam for anything to do with one of the most familiar array of household and healthcare items.

A responsible brand should probably maintain a dignified silence amidst the continuing mud-slinging in yet another ugly episode rocking India.

Would love to hear your comments on this… What do you think?

Should Colgate-Palmolive be silent or take advantage of this situation? Let us know…

"Will Colgate Take on Coalgate to Protect its Brand?", 5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings.
  1. Amardeep says

    I think this is blessing in disguise for Colgate brand. If I haven’t missed out of a marketing and PR class, Then Any publicity is good publicity. Unless u r saying colgate has cynide in it and will kill u instantly, Repeatated use of the word on the frenzy media will just increase its awareness

  2. Altaf Rahman says

    I got this idea when Colgate and Coalgate were rhyming.
    Then I remembered Zhandubalm/Munni badnaam ad episode.
    Just to refresh memories, when Zhandu Balm started using Munni song, immediately Sallu and Co made the issue a legal one. Finally the issue was settled outside the court for some undisclosed sum.
    Munni song got the extra milage when media started reporting the issue, they got additional money from Zhandu.
    Zhandu benifited in that it got free media coverage for the issue (normally they pay to media to air the ad, but with this issue, they got free coverage).

    So I thought already Colgate spends huge amounts on ads, why dont they take free coverage if it rakes up the issue in some way. it can make a legal issue out of it by complaining to ASCI that the use of the phrase Coalgate is tarnishing their image. We all know nothing will come out of it as ASCI is helpless in making media refrain from using the word Coalgate.
    But Colgate will get free media coverage so it saves them ad budget costs.

    This is meant to be a funny idea. No serious issue :)

    Just my two paisa :)

    1. Naweed Chougle says

      No one thought Apple would challenge a tiny cafe in Germany for using a logo similar to theirs. This kill operation was designed only to boost the buzz about Apple across the globe; little-known cafes surely can’t steal the thunder from a giant like Apple.

      Your point about ad budget costs is valid; Colgate clearly has fierce competition from Dabur and other players among the English-speaking Indians — hence I think this subject is something to ponder over.

  3. Prasant Naidu says

    one of the possibilities a brand these days can think of. specially when ORM is becoming a big market. and please it is not a trash article.

    1. Naweed Chougle says

      It's unfortunate if brands could actually cash in by taking advantage of a shocking scam hitting the country. Will Colgate try to gain the edge over competitors, or will they stay away from greed? ….That is the question. Attempting to kill the word "Coalgate" is not an option, because anyone innocent enough to try such a thing will certainly see a boomerang effect.

  4. Nikhil Narayanan says

    Such a #lolmax stupid article. Really, dude? The way people perceive brand 'Colgate' will be influenced by the scam being called 'Coal Gate'? Naweed, you should turn this into a satirical piece('Col-Pal sues Indian media' or such) and send it to Faking News – wait, even they will reject. :

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      @nikhil narayanan I somehow dont agree with you… You dont know to what extent Brands go… Although, it may sound funny, Brands have known to kill anything that even has remote chance of bringing ill-repute to their brand… I don't think it is a stupid article at all…

    2. Naweed Chougle says

      I was only exploring the possibility of Colgate heading to the courts to stop their name from being tarnished. History books could end up bringing a bit of mockery to Colgate, but I don't think it will be very serious.

      I agree with Arun about brands trying to kill anything that gets into their way.

      Since Colgate is one of the most easily recognizable names in household, they probably won't bother at all, and that's the conclusion I've drawn in the final few paragraphs.

      @Nikhil: Did you post your comment without reading the section "What’s in a name?" :D

    3. Nikhil Narayanan says

      Arun: Obviously, you will not agree with me. :)

    4. Nikhil Narayanan says

      Naweed Chougle You can defend your article, I am not going to question that. I stick to what I said. I had to stop reading this article half way through to post the comment – there's a limit to the trash anyone can read. :)

    5. Naweed Chougle says

      You failed to get the whole thrust of the article, that's it. :)

      Do you know why there's a problem in taking things out of context and jumping to conclusions?

    6. Nikhil Narayanan says

      Whatever, Naweed. Either you don't know anything about marketing, or you tried to be funny. Failed completely. Moving on.

    7. Vikram Venkateswaran says

      Nikhil Narayanan looks like you have lost none of your touch, well put and said. How are things otherwise?

    8. Rajat Garg says

      I am just a little shocked with this article! Title should have been changed – Hypothetically, how colgate will take on coalgate? Then, write a suspense thriller :-)

  5. Vikram Venkateswaran says

    I think this is a very funny article, most people using Colgate may not even be aware of Coalgate…as the vernacular translation means something else. so you are asking Colgate to refine its branding to those of us sorry sods who speak English…… Interesting..

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Actually Vikram – The idea for this article was given by me to him and to me by one of our regular readers (altaf rahman) :) But I think @Naweed has done a great job of putting the question across…I thought it was funny but interesting article…

    2. Naweed Chougle says

      @Vikram: The number of Indians speaking English is greater than the population of the UK, and this is rising. :) I would be very surprised by claims that they use many brands other than Colgate.

      Hence, I think the company would definitely ponder over this Coalgate mess and the associations it is creating with their products.

    3. Vikram Venkateswaran says

      Ok good point, Colgate now has about 52% market share mostly in rural India. almost 48% market share is with HUL, Dabur, GSK and Anchor. There are also many regional players. HUL and Anchor account for the bulk of the 5 % English speaking population that you are referring to. So statistically the move does not make sense. But this is still an interesting article never the less.

    4. Naweed Chougle says

      Thanks, Vikram, for the statistics. Colgate obviously won't go the Apple way — My mind went straight to the case of Apple taking on a German cafe for using a logo similar to its own.

    5. Naweed Chougle says

      ^Still, Colgate is no stranger to lawsuits.

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