COLGATE'S LATIN STRENGTH RECRUITED TO PROD U.S. FOES: SIBONEY LEADS EFFORT FOR FABULOSO AND SUAVITEL BRANDS

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Colgate-Palmolive Co., using its strength in Latin America to overcome its second-tier presence in U.S. laundry and cleaning categories, is introducing two leading Mexican brands to Hispanic markets here.

Colgate began shipping its Mexican-made Suavitel fabric softener and Fabuloso hard-surface cleaners to the U.S. this spring and earlier this month launched a Hispanic TV, radio and print campaign by Siboney Advertising, New York. Siboney handles Suavitel and Fabuloso in Mexico and Puerto Rico and is Colgate's Hispanic agency of record for its U.S. brands.

'COLGATE FAMILY'

Ads introduce the lines as members of "the Colgate-Palmolive family of products," playing on what consultants say is a strong corporate brand name in Latin America. Colgate is the only major household products marketer to bring an established Mexican brand name stateside, according to category observers.

"This is long overdue," said Gary Stibel, principal of the New England Consulting Group. "The Mexican-American population is the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. It is culturally very close-knit, and families do hold in high regard brands that did well in the mother country."

Suavitel and Fabuloso are both No. 1 in their categories in Mexico, said Phil Keeler, Colgate's VP-advertising, Mexico. But Colgate's U.S. unit is handling distribution and marketing of the brands here.

The brands are being distributed nationally to all major accounts with Hispanic consumers, including Wal-Mart and Kmart, a Colgate spokeswoman said.

LEVERAGING POWER

In bringing established Mexican brand names to the U.S., Colgate hopes to leverage its power in Latin America-where it leads in these and other personal-care and household products. Despite Spanish-language advertising in the U.S. for its domestic brand names, Colgate is an also-ran in laundry and household products to global players Procter & Gamble and Unilever as well as the more locally focused Clorox Co.

The products fill voids in Colgate's existing U.S. portfolio, since Colgate doesn't have a fabric softener in the U.S. and Fabuloso competes in a value liquid cleaner segment where its Ajax and Murphy's Oil Soap household cleaners don't.

Colgate isn't the first to bring Mexican products to the U.S. Alen Products, which markets several leading household products brands in Mexico, brought several of its products to Texas three years ago.

LEADING IN HOUSTON

The value Pine-Alen brand has since become the leading household cleaner in Houston, said Rob Whitt, president of Marketing Mercadeo International, a San Antonio Hispanic ad agency that helped Alen enter the U.S.

While the strategy makes sense short-term, Cannondale Associates consultant Ken Harris doubts Latin American brands can ultimately capture much of the Hispanic market. Such brands appeal to recent immigrants, he said, but second-generation

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