Unilever Oral Care

18 years of innovation and brand guardianship building a $1bn brand

DGI has worked closely with Unilever’s Oral Care Division since 1997. Participating actively in the Division’s product innovation workshops and providing support in every area from Product Strategy to New Product Development, Brand and Product Guardianship, we have become a key trusted partner, valued for our know-how and custodianship of the brand’s product history.

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Global brand & product empowerment

Our work with Unilever empowers its brands and products through innovations that make them a valued integral part of users’ everyday lives, delivering performance improvements, and clearly conveying their key product benefits and USPs. Following a creative multidisciplinary approach that integrates in-depth analyses of consumer practices and attitudes towards ergonomic and materials studies, DGI has made major contributions to the leading brands in the Unilever Oral Care portfolio, including Aim, Close UP, Mentadent, Pepsodent and Signal in projects for EU countries and international markets, ranging from Brazil to the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore.

Changing perceptions of oral care

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Oral care design has changed radically in the past 20 years, shifting from simple performance and function to interaction and experience. Toothbrushes are now an integral part of our everyday lives. We expect them not just to help us brush properly, but also to make us feel great. They have become symbols of a happy, healthy lifestyle.

Oral Care was centered on the idea of prevention. The toothbrush market was focused on function alone.

Oral Care was all about action and performance. Toothbrushes were seen as technical devices that actively fight the enemies in one’s mouth.

Healthy habits are increasingly seen as ways of treating oneself well, rather than medical routines or battles against the enemies of one’s body. Attitudes towards health have become aspirational and connected with pleasure. People take up healthy habits because they want to improve their lives, not just prevent diseases.

A new product philosophy: 3 pillars

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The overall product look connects users with the benefits that daily brushing brings to their lives. The look helps them approach brushing with a positive attitude.
The design improves the user’s interactions with the toothbrush (better living) as well as improving performance in the mouth (better cleaning).
The product benefits are defined in relation to the needs of the person, not just the needs of their teeth.

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A Timeline of successes

2014 – Vertical & Vertical Sensitive

An extremely innovative new product in the Unilever oral care portfolio, marketed in Italy and Austria under the MENTADENT brand, in France and Spain under the SIGNAL brand, in Greece under the AIM brand, and in Finland, India, Indonesia and the Philippines under the PEPSODENT brand.
Everyone brushes their teeth regularly, but not always correctly, as recommend by dentists. So what’s the right way to brush one’s teeth?
The toothbrush should always move perpendicularly to the gums, and always from the gums towards the teeth. So, brush downwards for the upper teeth and upwards for the lower teeth. Adopting a vertical motion, move the toothbrush from the gum towards the teeth at an angle of 45 degrees to remove any plaque under the margin of the gum.
To design a toothbrush that simply and intuitively facilitates the correct brushing motion, indirectly promoting the optimal interaction between the object and its user. An object carefully designed down to the smallest details (materials, finishings, grip) and in all its component parts (bristles and grip) so that it can educate and improve quality of life in a simple everyday activity.


The design brief for the Vertical Expert specified two functional objectives - facilitate vertical brushing and promote effective interdental cleaning through a multiple plaque-removing action - and one user pleasure objective, namely that brushing should become a caress, with less pressure applied to the gums, thereby simultaneously improving precision and thoroughness.
The design of the Vertical Expert handle with its cylindrical 360° radial grip zone prompts the user to rotate the toothbrush between their fingers, facilitating the vertical toothbrush motion recommended by dentists.

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Vertical Sensitive

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2012 – White System

New CMF Design

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2011 – Inside Precision

The aim of this project was to create a toothbrush designed specifically to remove plaque and tartar more effectively even in the most difficult areas of the mouth to reach, such as the inner arches and interdental spaces.
The flexible tilting head allows to the brush to adapt to the inner dental arch.

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2009 – Torsion - Double Action

The toothbrush with a twisting head

The toothbrush with a twisting head.
The Torsion™ toothbrush enables users to brush even the hardest parts of the mouth to reach. The design is based on a functional concept that is easy to understand and intuitively connected to the product benefit, since it recalls the rotating movement one makes with one’s hand when trying to brush more deeply inside the mouth. Torsion™ enhances this action and carries it out independently.

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2005 – Essential, India

The challenge Hindustan Lever presented to us was to design a brush that would meet the demanding needs of the Indian market, delivering performance and appeal at a very low cost. Environmental impact was a further consideration.
The result was Essential, a brush that sells over 100 million units annually. Weighing just 8 g compared with the average 18.5 g, that’s a saving of over 1,000 tons of plastic every year!

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2004 – Air Precision, the gentle toothbrush

Bristles set in a bed of air

The Mentadent Air Precision features a head that’s nothing short of revolutionary because the bristles are set in a bed of air, meaning they can move up, down and in any direction independently from one another. As a result, they adapt to the surface of the teeth and can make their way delicately between the teeth with a precision that would otherwise be impossible.

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2004 – Integral (Complete Care)

INTEGRAL combines all the functions of dedicated-action toothbrushes in one, featuring a head that’s made up of different bristle clusters, each with a specific cleaning function.

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2003 – Experience by Close Up

The Complete Care brush that launched the new Close-Up brand for young consumers in Europe.

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2003 – Inter-Act

High-performance super-interdental toothbrush

Deploying advanced technology, Inter-Act is the only toothbrush to combine a special set of bristles, which clean the tooth surface using soft rubber blades, with sophisticated fan-shaped brushes that penetrate between the teeth for effective plaque removal.

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2002 – Professional, India and Italy

A toothbrush created for the Indian market, featuring a low weight to bring down the cost.

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2002 – Kids World by Signal

The kid’s toothbrush that stands up all on its own thanks to suction pads in the base.

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2001 – Contact by Mentadent

Toothbrush with wings on either side of the head to massage the gums.

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2000 – White System, NPD

The first toothbrush to feature a rubber blade in the head that has a whitening action, because it adheres to the teeth like a soft windscreen wiper during brushing, gently polishing them. Still on the market after 15 years and still a best seller.

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1999 – Adaptor

Toothbrush with bristles set in rubber, enabling them to adapt to the user’s mouth.

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1998 – Insider

Toothbrush with two independent flexible heads for superior cleaning of the inner dental arches. The first three-material toothbrush, featuring a rubber coating on the neck to protect the gums against accidental impact.

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1997 – Technic Advance

The first toothbrush to feature a triple-angled neck, inspired by dentist’s tools, to reach the most difficult areas.
Awarded the Premio Selezione Compasso d’oro 1998. Still on the market today.

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