It was really an offer from the future P&G chairman-CEO for a promotion to brand manager in Japan. At the time, Mr. Casper didn't really know who Mr. Jager was, or even how to spell his name. Neither he nor his wife had ever even been out of the country and didn't even own passports. "Just leaving Ohio was an adventure for us," said Mr. Casper, who was born and raised in Cincinnati's swank Indian Hill suburb.
But Mr. Casper, now 45, took the job and became part of a legion of U.S. expats P&G was training to ward off the threat posed by Japan's Kao Corp. Ironically, the move propelled him on a path that saw him in April become CEO of Dial Corp., a U.S. unit of Germany's Henkel, another major P&G overseas rival.
Now he's heading a relatively small if geographically crucial outpost for a company with bigger fish to fry, and hoping to repeat the rapid pace of growth he saw during his nine-year P&G stint in Asia.
After three years in Japan, Mr. Casper moved on to Hong Kong and later China as general manager at the behest of another future P&G chairman-CEO, A.G. Lafley. He then came back to the U.S. in 1998 as head of global strategic planning-fabric care.
"Brad did quite well in his Far East assignment, and was one of the people who really liked to understand the consumer and the business there," Mr. Jager said. "Brad is a very dedicated individual who wanted to get at the real issues rather than what is politically expedient."
Time to leave
By late 2001, however, with Mr. Jager having departed and P&G in the throes of a tumultuous revamp, "being back at the headquarters felt just different, if you will, and I was starting to get excited about other opportunities," Mr. Casper said.
He took one as president-personal care for Church & Dwight Co., helping oversee integration of its acquisition of Carter Wallace, including the Trojan and Arrid brands. He also oversaw the 2003 acquisition of former Unilever toothpaste brands, including Mentadent and Close-Up.
"Everyone I came in contact with respected Brad and enjoyed working with him, which is not always an easy combination," said John Yengo, a principal with Barefoot Advertising, Cincinnati, who worked with Mr. Casper at P&G and later on Close-Up and Mentadent for Church & Dwight.
With CEO opportunities getting scarcer in a consolidating package-goods universe, Mr. Casper jumped at the Dial opportunity earlier this year. "Some of the same opportunities I confronted three years ago at Church & Dwight are present here," he said, including "potentially the opportunity to acquire and add on to a strong existing set of brands."
But he's also looking for organic growth. Among the six "C's" in his strategy for Dial are core businesses, "consumer-centric innovation," customer [retailer] collaboration, cost consciousness, more effective commercialization of concepts and capability, as in training.
He sent a large contingent for training during the Association of National Advertisers meeting near Dial's Scottsdale, Ariz., headquarters recently and believes the company needs to do a better job both of media support and using a wider range of more cost-effective approaches. Church & Dwight personal care, he said, did exactly that on his watch.
He's also stepped up spending on market research to provide the insights to fuel what he hopes will be "fewer, bigger" product launches.
Though Dial's ad agency, Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, Chicago, was selected under his predecessor, Herb Baum, Mr. Casper said he's impressed with what he's seen and heard from the shop. "Both strategically and creatively," he said, "They bring a lot to the party."
P&G alumni, at least those fresh out, sometimes get a bad rap. Why, and why are you different? "One of the stigmas against P&G people who leave in that first assignment is that they're so accustomed to the massive strength of bench. ... I spent a large portion of my time at P&G away from Cincinnati and in a fast-moving entrepreneurial environment" in Asia.
What are the challenges for Dial? "My predecessor Herb Baum left the company in great condition. [He] came in the midst of a difficult beginning and made it very clear it was his job to fix and potentially sell the company. He achieved his objective in under five years. But I think that people are wondering what's next. ... Our biggest challenge is to move from a more [retailer]-centric approach to a more consumer-centric one, or at least a balance."
How would you compare yourself to Mr. Baum? "In a book he wrote a couple of years back, he wrote things on transparent leadership that were so natural and so much a part of my toolbox of leadership. ... I think he saw that. He may say I have a greater emphasis on strategy, a greater emphasis on process and discipline."