Venus razor: Mary Ann Pesce

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After Gillette Co.'s Mach3 debuted in 1998, many executives assumed the razor marketer would follow convention by launching "Mach3 for Women."

Playing on those assumptions at a sales meeting this year, Gillette VP-New Product Development Mary Ann Pesce unveiled the "Machette," complete with parody TV spot. The spoof was meant to show the folly in pitching a female version of a brand with all the masculine trappings of Mach3.

In fact, Ms. Pesce already had convinced higher-ups to launch an entirely new brand in the Venus women's razor, but only after extensive consumer research. "This was a struggle," says the 20-year Gillette veteran. "There were a lot of people here who fully expected this would be the Mach3 for women."

For Ms. Pesce, 46, it was an exercise in "show me the numbers." And now she has. Venus hit stores in March and reached sales of more than $51 million by June 17, according to Information Resources Inc. Ad support broke in May via Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, with a campaign themed, "Reveal the goddess in you."

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