Two years later, she surprised P&G, friends, family and even herself -- by leaving the company she joined as a 20-year-old summer intern -- when she took the post of senior exec VP-marketing at drugstore chain Rite Aid Corp.
For Ms. Kaplan, now 40, Rite Aid provided a chance to help shape a rapidly growing chain in an industry facing rapid consolidation and rising pressure from mass merchandisers and managed care.
Ms. Kaplan likens drugstores to shampoos.
"When you have 10 different shampoos on the shelf, how does the consumer decide? It's all about branding, promotion and image," she says.
She set out to develop the Rite Aid brand, launching a beauty "store within a store" concept, to be followed this year by a similar format for dietary supplements in conjunction with GNC. She backed both with increased ad spending, and launched a frequent shopper card she expects to play a growing role in the chain's marketing.
The results: Same-store sales were up 6% in 1998, compared with 1% growth rates five years ago.
"I don't think I would have left P&G to go to another package-goods company," she says.
But she says Rite Aid gave her "an opportunity to take everything I had learned at P&G and apply it in a completely different environment and have a huge impact."