THE MARKETING 100;DEBRA SANDLER;SLICE

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Like the Motown sound of its ad spokesmen, Boyz II Men, Pepsi-Cola Co.'s Slice is making a surprising comeback.

It wasn't too long ago the floundering soft drink was being written off as a dud. While flavored cola competitors like Dr Pepper and 7UP were taking off, Slice dropped 14% in unit volume in 1992 and an additional 7% in 1993. But the marketing minds at Pepsi didn't stay underwhelmed for long, regrouping for a total overhaul of the brand.

"We were taking a real risk," recalls Debra Sandler, 35, then marketing director for Slice and now marketing director, PepsiCola Co.

"When you have a good trademark and you tamper with it, you can lose core users."

But Sandler and company gambled, souping up the brand's graphics, lowering the price to narrow the gap between it and other non-cola beverages and adding flavors to the line that had been targeted generally at adults. Slice was also retargeted at teen-agers, particularly ethnic consumers in urban areas.

All that was left to do was to persuade the Pepsi brand group to give up Boyz II Men-already in negotiations with Pepsi agency BBDO for an ad deal-for Slice. After nine months, the strategy was unleashed to selected markets to great success. Year-to-date through November 1994, Texas and Oklahoma saw a 30% increase in sales; Atlanta and the Carolinas saw a 41% increase in sales. The refurbished Slice has now gone national.

Volume also stabilized last year. With a 1% volume share of the soft drink market and now 10 flavors strong, Slice is looking healthy again, thanks to efforts of Ms. Sandler, its chief engineer.

"Debra set the stage for future growth," says C.J. Fraleigh, current Slice marketing manager.

"We honed her strategy and expanded it to the rest of the country."

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