Colgate’s Media Buzz Score Suffers Amid Triclosan Concern

Colgate-Palmolive Co.’s “buzz score” has fallen to a 14-month low amid rekindled concerns about the use of triclosan in its Total toothpaste, according to YouGov BrandIndex.

The score -- a benchmark used by YouGov BrandIndex to measure positive and negative messages on a brand in the media - - has dropped by almost two-thirds, slipping to 6 yesterday from 17 on Aug. 8. Even so, consumers in the survey haven’t yet shown that they’re changing purchasing decisions based on the information, the research firm found.

Bloomberg News reported last week on the Food and Drug Administration approval process for Total 17 years ago, raising new questions about how the product was evaluated. Recently released portions of the Total application show that the FDA relied on company-backed science and might not have done enough due diligence before approving the use of triclosan in the toothpaste, according to three scientists who reviewed the documents at Bloomberg’s request.

Triclosan has been linked to cancer-cell growth and disrupted development in animals, and many companies are ceasing to put it in other products, such as hand soaps. Colgate has stood by its use in Total, citing the FDA’s approval of the product as an over-the-counter drug in 1997. Total relies on triclosan as an antibacterial chemical to ward off gum disease.

ADA Accepted

“Colgate Total has been reviewed and approved by U.S., Europe, Canada and Australia regulatory authorities as safe and effective,” Tom DiPiazza, a spokesman for the New York-based company, said in an e-mail. “The American Dental Association recently reaffirmed its acceptance of Colgate Total for its Seal, noting that ‘there is no clinically relevant scientific evidence indicating that the Seal should be removed from the Colgate Total product.’”

The buzz score measures the percentage of consumers who have heard something positive about the brand versus the number who have heard something negative. YouGov BrandIndex interviews 4,300 people each weekday from a representative sample of the U.S. population.

The score is based on what consumers have heard from advertising, news stories or word of mouth. That makes it a measure of media awareness, not brand reputation, DiPiazza said.

Colgate shares dropped 0.6 percent to $64.26 today in New York. The stock has lost 1.5 percent of its value this year.

General Motors Co. suffered a similar drop in its buzz score after concerns about product recalls this year, though the number of shoppers considering purchasing GM cars has been rebounding, according to YouGov BrandIndex.

Colgate may take a wait-and-see attitude, Erin Lash, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, said last week in an interview.

“If they really feel that this will ultimately damage the brand, I think they will take action,” she said. “But at this point, I don’t think they think it will damage the brand.”

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