Colgate leaps by rivals with 1st chief Web officer

By Published on .

In a move that puts Colgate-Palmolive Co. ahead of global package-goods rivals in one respect, the company has named a star executive to a new position overseeing Internet strategy.

Jack Haber, who brought unprecedented success to the company's toothpaste business as VP-general manager of oral care, last week became Colgate's first chief Web officer.

Mr. Haber was in charge of the early 1990s launch of Colgate Total toothpaste outside the U.S. and the product's U.S. introduction in 1997. Total has driven Colgate's share to an all-time high globally and given the brand undisputed leadership of the U.S. toothpaste category to displace three-decade leader Crest, owned by Procter & Gamble Co.

MARKETING, E-COMMERCE DUTIES

In his new duties, Mr. Haber will be responsible for both Web marketing and e-commerce, implementing "a global strategy for shaping the way we will do business online," he said in a prepared statement.

Though Colgate's interactive efforts have been sparse to date, the appointment of Mr. Haber could lend instant credibility, said consultant Burt Flickinger, managing director of Reach Marketing.

"The Web officer is going to be second in importance only to the chief marketing officer of the major consumer branded-goods companies," Mr. Flickinger said.

Colgate rivals P&G and Unilever have hogged the interactive spotlight in the package-goods industry in recent years.

P&G has positioned itself as a leader in Web marketing since former Chairman-CEO Edwin L. Artzt's landmark 1994 speech to the American Association of Advertising Agencies calling for a new commitment to interactive marketing.

More recently, P&G VP-Marketing Denis Beausejour spearheaded the Future of Advertising Stakeholders summit.

Unilever has gained attention for its interactive marketing efforts through deals last year with America Online and Microsoft Corp. estimated to total as much as $100 million.

But neither company has a chief Web officer yet. At P&G, for instance, the highest-ranking executives with direct Web responsibilities hold the titles of associate director and brand manager.

P&G's acquisition of Iams Co., which was completed last week, could add impetus to Mr. Haber's efforts.

Colgate-owned Hill's Science Diet brand leads the global premium pet food segment with about $1 billion in annual sales; combined sales for Iams and P&G-owned Eukanuba are about $800 million.

P&G'S PETFOOD STRATEGY

P&G expects to build the Iams and Eukanuba brands by expanding distribution beyond their traditional stronghold in pet specialty stores. One channel P&G intends to develop is e-commerce, P&G Chairman-CEO Durk Jager told analysts last month.

Web sales of premium pet foods could flourish with the advent of pet product Web sites, including Petopia.com, Pets.com and PetSmart.

"Now that the pet specialty [retail-store] channel is beginning to plateau . . . . and with P&G acquiring a major competitor in Iams and having a clear advantage in Web marketing, Haber's appointment is critically important," Mr. Flickinger said.

Copyright September 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

In this article:
Most Popular