Best of times

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Sharp-eyed marketers are aware that the time to seize opportunities is now-just when it's fashionable for others to be gloomy about the economy. There is market share to be seized, and a chance to shake up category landscapes that doesn't often present itself.

Household products marketer Reckitt Benckiser knows this. A bigger force overseas than in U.S. markets, Reckitt, we reported last week, is out to raise its U.S. business with an aggressive new product push involving brands such as Lysol, Electrasol, Glass Plus, Old English and Calgon Healing Garden. Its program will pump $60 million to $70 million into the U.S. advertising economy. More important, Reckitt is on the move while rivals, such as Procter & Gamble Co., Clorox Co. and Dial Corp., are preoccupied with a series of earnings disappointments.

Though Reckitt strategists probably laid their plans for its U.S. push before anyone knew when, or how quickly, the economic outlook would change, it now stands to benefit by actively wooing consumers while others are more timid. As media consultant Erwin Ephron, writing on recession strategies, noted on our Forum page Feb. 26, "Hard times present the perfect `now-or-never' opportunity. Share of voice as the driver means it's not how much you spend, it's how much more than the competition you spend that makes the difference. It's easier to spend more than the competition when they are cutting back."

These times call for prudent spending, certainly, as managers seek to honor their obligation to protect shareholder equity. But they also demand careful calculation-and action. Budget cutting, alone, is false security. The marketer that acts to pick up share now will benefit both today and in the future, when those share points are costlier to come by.

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