Oral-B launches iO Series 10,

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Oral-B launches its latest, iO Series 10, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

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Benjamin Binot joined Procter & Gamble in 2002. In August 2020, he was promoted to the position of senior vice president for Europe for oral care. (Image: Oral-B)

At a time when artificial intelligence was making its way into almost every facet of life, Oral-B returned to the Mobile World Congress (MWC). At this event, which took place in Barcelona in Spain from 28 February to 3 March, the company increased its iO portfolio by launching three new products: iO Series 10 with iO sense, iO Series 4 and iO Series 5. Benjamin Binot senior vice president for Europe for oral care at Procter & Gamble (P&G), shared enthusiastically from personal experience why the iO makes Oral-B an important player when it comes to oral care and how it will revolutionise the way we brush our teeth.

Mr Binot, you have been part of the P&G family for 20 years now, and it has been one and a half years since you took charge of the European market for oral care. You have said that your goal is to “transform oral care habits around the world”. Could you tell us more about this?
Our ultimate goals are to improve oral health for all and for our products to have a meaningful impact on health. Our main objective is to encourage people to shift from manual toothbrushes to electric toothbrushes. In Europe as a whole, 29% of the population use an electric toothbrush; however, the market varies from a low 20% in Italy and 45% in Germany up to 60% in the Netherlands. Therefore, we have a huge opportunity to show people the importance of brushing with an electric toothbrush.

Using an electric toothbrush rather than a manual one not only delivers a much better cleaning performance but is also beneficial for overall health. This is particularly true of the Oral-B electric toothbrush. After one week of using the iO toothbrush, compared with using a manual toothbrush, the results are removal of 100% of plaque. This has a very meaningful impact on overall health because gingival health is improved.

Oral-B iO was launched two years ago at MWC. You are now introducing Oral-B iO Series 10 with iO sense. According to the product literature, it seems that both the iO and the iO Series 10 have the same technology, except for the inclusion of iO sense with iO Series 10. Is iO sense the main difference between the two versions, with the magnetic charger featuring the new elements of the toothbrush?
Indeed, we launched the iO platform in 2020. The iO is a very high-end product and represents what we do best in terms of dentistry. The innovation this year is iO Series 10, featuring, of course, the superior iO technology but including a new element: iO sense. It will be launched in Europe first, at the end of summer. The release in the US will follow one year later.

The Oral-B iO Series 10 comes in two new galactic-inspired brush designs, cosmic black and stardust white. (Image: Oral-B)

Similarly to its predecessor, iO Series 10 features vibrations in the handle to indicate when it is time to go to the next quadrant of the mouth. A light on the handle indicates whether the right pressure is being applied.

We found that not all users want to use their phones in the bathroom, and so iO sense came about as a guide to enable users to know where, when and how to brush and to give the feedback, guidance and information that were originally only available in the app.

The new feature iO sense is included in the magnetic charger. It comes with a clock and a timer telling the user precisely how long to brush an area. There are also specific indications on the device itself to indicate the quadrants of the mouth and a smart pressure sensor which gives the user feedback via colours, indicating the amount of pressure being exerted. Red indicates too much pressure, white indicates not enough, and green indicates the right amount. With the prior version, the user needed the app to see this information, unless he or she was brushing in front of a mirror.

Since its launch, we have been continuously improving our iO platform and software by using learning based on thousands of patterns of brushing style in order to guide users in brushing adequately. The new iO Series 10 provides the user with access to the information not only in the handle but also in the magnetic charger via iO sense. The app can be used in order to benefit from artificial intelligence for guidance and to give feedback, with 3D graphics indicating the best method of brushing, based on the recommendations of dental professionals. In this way, dental professional advice, knowledge and feedback are available at home.

The app for the toothbrushes has been downloaded 11 million times since 2016. Did your research, together with feedback from doctors and consumers, indicate that people were not consistent in using the app regularly? Was this the reason for your decision to include iO sense in the magnetic charger?
We had 2.5 million downloads in 2021, and we know that 500,000 of these are still being used consistently. So the app is well used but indeed, depending on the consumer profile, not everybody wants to have his or her phone in the bathroom. That prompted us to work on this issue and to add iO sense to iO Series 10. People still want to be helped and guided, and I don’t believe that this will change. Our research and development team receives constant consumer feedback, and this is the reason why we keep on improving. With iO Series 10, we really have the best of the best, and its coming to life was clearly based on the demands of consumers.

You are also launching iO Series 4 and iO Series 5. What can you tell me about them?
The idea of launching these two toothbrushes is to democratise the iO technology. They are considerably cheaper than the iO Series 10 and can consequently reach more consumers. Of course, they do not have iO sense included. The iO Series 10 has seven brushing modes. The iO Series 5, as its name indicates, comes with five modes that can be seen on the handle, and iO Series 4, which has four modes, is a simpler version of the toothbrush. We could not release a toothbrush without the benefits of iO technology; however, they do not come with the magnetic charger and, instead, have the traditional one normally found with basic electric toothbrushes.

It is two years since the launch of iO. Has it been a success?
It has actually been a huge success. In numbers, we have 1.3 million users in Europe. In Germany, for example, one out of four electric toothbrushes sold has iO technology. Of course, we are, at the moment, still busy launching it in some countries. In some Eastern European countries, we launched the iO only a couple of months ago; however, in Germany, for example, it has been on the market for two years. It is an investment for the consumer, and 30% of iO users have previously only used manual toothbrushes.

Do you think the switch results from dentists’ recommendations?

The Oral-B iO Series 10 with iO sense. (Image: Oral-B)

Yes, that is one reason. Our products are designed in collaboration with dentists and their recommendations make a big difference in patient's adoption of a product. Moreover, the product’s performance is outstanding in many respects: the cleaning itself, the gentleness on the gums and the opportunity to improve brushing habits. The feedback is also important and appreciated; it enables people to correct what they might not have done correctly and to brush even better.

We have tried as well to improve the refill consumption, which is a major issue. The recommendation is to replace the brush every three months but not everybody does this.

Studies tell us that, in using the iO, 100% more plaque is removed than with a manual toothbrush. Therefore, it clearly has an impact on health, and we know that oral health is a global issue. There are three and a half billion people suffering from periodontal disease in the world. So to return to your question, my goal is definitely to improve global oral health, and there is still much to be done in many countries.

Visually, the product has an iconic design and is a very beautiful object for the bathroom.

Personally, I find that I brush for a longer time when using the iO. Have you received similar feedback on this issue, which is obviously an important one for improving oral health?
You are correct. It not only performs well but also succeeds on the level of engagement. We want to provide our consumers with an enjoyable and rewarding experience. We achieve this with the iO. It is a beautiful product, and the experience is quite rewarding and enjoyable. Therefore, users are more engaged, and they brush for two minutes and often longer. They do better because of the feedback and guidance they receive from the app.

Did you introduce the iO Series 4 and iO Series 5 because you became aware that many people could not afford the iO? I have talked to the young influencers you invited to come here. Why did you decide to expand your marketing strategies to include influencers?
We are following a quite traditional strategy in introducing the iO range. We want to offer different prices in order to provide for different expectations. Some people seek the best available device and the latest technology, and for them, iO Series 10 is the choice.

From left: Influencers Paul Griffig, Cindy Jane, Paula Kraemer and Florian Liebig came to Barcelona for the iO Series 10 with iO sense launch. (Image: Oral-B)

We also believe it is our responsibility to make this platform available to all, and depending on the consumer profile, iO Series 4 and iO Series 5, although having certain limitations, will achieve that and will succeed in democratising the platform. Both iO Series 4 and iO Series 5 have fewer functionalities than iO Series 10, but they have the same technology in the handle. Consequently, there has been no compromise in technology, even if fewer modes are available.

We are, of course, working as well on toothpastes, and we will be coming up with a premium approach not only aimed at protection but also focused on prevention. If there is a concern about prevention, protection of the gingivae and whitening, the iO could be the best tool available to shift from a product that purely whitens to one that is more focused on daily prevention and where some of the different iO modes (such as Whiten, Sensitive, Super Sensitive, and Gum Care) can be used more specifically.

Did the decision to work with influencers open a new way for you to reach customers? How has it helped compared with the more traditional marketing strategy? What has the outcome been?
That’s a good question. We still use traditional media to reach our customers; however, we certainly need to use specific messages tailored to specific consumer audiences, and these can be very different. The beauty of using influencers and digital media is that it allows you to address specific needs with the right messages. This is critical for us because each group has different expectations. One might want pure performance, whereas another might think that design is important. We need to make sure that we talk to each different group in the right way.

Therefore, we use both of these marketing tools and will continue doing so. We are certainly very involved with social media and influencers. It is part of our strategy for expansion. We want to give the right message to people and we do not want to overwhelm them with information that they are not interested in receiving.

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