THE MARKETING 100: SONICARE: BILL BASSETT

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Promoting pearly white teeth and healthy gums is all in a day's work for Bill Bassett. But he's no dentist.

As marketing manager for Optiva Corp.'s Sonicare power toothbrushes, Mr. Bassett has helped generate sales results that would make any marketer grin. The power toothbrush brand, which has been around since the early 1990s, uses a sonic frequency of 31,000 brush strokes per minute to clean teeth and gums. Optiva, whose only products are the seven Sonicare models, has seen revenues grow 12-fold since 1991.

"If you'd told me I'd be having fun with a sonic toothbrush a couple of years ago, I'd have thought you were crazy," says Mr. Bassett, 33.

But Mr. Bassett's marketing plan has been anything but crazy. The strategy has moved beyond stressing product education, as was the case upon Sonicare's introduction four years ago, to building the brand's name.

In December 1995, Sonicare assigned its national brand-building account to Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco. The goal, according to Mr. Bassett, was to use "a fun message and tone to make Sonicare a household name."

The advertising campaign was launched at the end of 1996 with print ads in 12 consumer magazines including such diverse titles as Scientific American and The New Yorker. TV spots appeared on network and cable TV.

Following Mr. Bassett's belief that the ads should be fun, the campaign played with sonic technology, showing how the technology could be used; for instance, to excavate artifacts from the Titanic.

Mr. Bassett also helped create other marketing programs, such as a six-month tie-in campaign with Time that put Sonicare cover wraps on 20,000 issues sent to dental offices. The tactic garnered an estimated 1 million impressions for the ad.

Also, a Sonicare TV spot also ran on certain United Airlines flights.

"To keep all the balls in the air without them crashing to the ground is a challenge," Mr. Bassett says, "but it's been fun."

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