Staying on top: OxiClean finds success leads to more competition

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For Orange Glo International, marketer of OxiClean, 2002 could have been titled "Attack of the OxiClones."

Orange Glo withstood knockoffs from household-products empires Unilever, Clorox Co. and S.C. Johnson & Son to increase sales to $330 million, up 35% from 2001, when its $245 million in audited sales helped it crack the top 10 of the Inc. 500 fastest-growing companies.

Having defended its share in the cleaning aisle, Orange Glo now has locked in pitchman Billy Mays. Under a recently concluded deal, the ubiquitous, high-volume Mr. Mays will rave exclusively about Orange Glo brands, which also include Orange Clean and Kaboom cleaners. Mr. Mays, who learned his craft hawking goods on the Atlantic City boardwalk, morphs into a more conventional celebrity pitchman in new 30- and 15-second ads that broke last week from McClain Finlon, Denver, for OxiClean. The marketer also will expand its outdoor campaign to 20 U.S. markets this year from 11 last year.

diluted impact

Following his success with Orange Glo, Mr. Mays last year began pitching a slew of others' products, such as Blaco Industries' Ding King dent remover and IdeaVillage's Grip Wrench and Gopher tools. "It was diluting the impact for us" to have Mr. Mays represent so many brands, said Joel Appel, president of Orange Glo and son of founder Max Appel, who first met Mr. Mays at a home show in the mid-1990s."They've got all of me now," said Mr. Mays, surprisingly low-key off air.

Laundry-additive shelves at a Cincinnati outpost of Wal-Mart Stores show Mr. Mays, whose infomercials continue even as OxiClean gets conventional TV support, has helped the brand weather competition. OxiClean has a full 5-foot shelf and 10 facings, compared to two or less for Clorox Oxygen Action, Huish's value Oxy Action brand and S.C. Johnson & Son's Shout Oxy Power. Absent is Unilever's All Oxi-Active, launched in May, though a Unilever spokeswoman said Wal-Mart will slot the All product nationally by next month. "[OxiClean] handled everything that's come at them and still grown," said a supermarket buyer.


That's a different story than the 1990s, when established household names piled into the daily-shower-cleaner segment started by Clean Shower and overtook the brand. The difference, said the buyer, has been much stronger defensive advertising by Orange Glo than either Clean Shower's original owner, Automation, or current owner, Church & Dwight Co.

Despite increased competition, OxiClean has 84% consumer loyalty, according to Kirsten Tonks, Orange Glo marketing director. With household penetration of only about 15%, she still sees plenty of room for OxiClean to grow.

In his latest ads, Mr. Mays touts OxiClean's power vs. detergent alone, shouting several notches below his infomercial voice the tagline: "You call that clean?" The ads replace a more humorous campaign last year featuring, among other things, football players in prom dresses rolling in blueberry pies.

New ads could help OxiClean counter Procter & Gamble Co.'s Tide with Bleach, which late last year launched an anti-Oxi ad from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. To the tune "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better," the ad demonstrates the Tide product's stain-fighting superiority to an unidentified "Oxy" additive.

"It's a little scary to be going up against P&G," said Mr. Appel, who believes OxiClean may be cutting into some Tide sales. Still, Tide remains a $2 billion brand in the U.S. alone. "I guess it's the ultimate form of flattery that [P&G] noticed us."

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