THE MARKETING 100: BRITA: CHARLES COURIC

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In 1988, Charles Couric, then a 15-year veteran of Clorox Co., was chosen to head a business development team to find growth opportunities for the 1990s.

One of the potential products was an obscure German water-filtration system called Brita.

Mr. Couric, today president, Brita Products Co., recalls that higher-ups told him: "If you believe in it, you go run it."

A year later, after Clorox bought U.S. rights to Brita, heading the business became Mr. Couric's full-time job.

After several years of steady double-digit growth, Brita has reached critical mass for Clorox, with volume currently running 42% ahead of last year and sales now estimated in the $150 million range by analysts.

With competition from Rubbermaid and Culligan Water Technologies, Clorox plans this year to support the brand with $30 million in TV, print and radio advertising from Y&R Advertising, San Francisco.

"Historically, what has made this category grow has been the marketing support that we provided," Mr. Couric says.

Fears about lead or other contamination in tap water haven't hurt, but he points to many lightly marketed water-filtration brands that have been unsuccessful-evidence that marketing is the key.

Water filtration may seem an odd fit with bleach and household cleaners, but Mr. Couric says Brita has meshed well with Clorox. Trade channels are similar, if not identical, to those for other Clorox products, he says, adding that Brita clearly responds to Clorox's strategy of providing research- and benefit-based marketing support.

"Our judgment was that this was a brandable consumer equity," Mr. Couric says. "I think history has proven this was the case."

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