Consistent message proves sweet victory

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At first glance, Anne Baxter Rewey's degree in industrial engineering may seem unrelated to her current job as director of marketing for McNeil Nutritionals' Splenda, a sugar substitute she has helped grow to a top brand in food outlets.

But she'll tell you that is inaccurate. Marketing in general, Ms. Rewey says, is extremely quantitative, and "certainly at [McNeil parent] Johnson & Johnson, we're grounded in the data ... taking a disciplined approach to developing meaningful brands."

Ms. Rewey, 35, took her degree from the University of Michigan to Morgan Stanley. She later handled marketing functions at Ford Motor Co. and Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol. She credits the chance to head up the Splenda launch to what she calls "a relentless desire to figure out what it will take from a data and consumer perspective to grow the business."

Such passion, she says, was evidenced by her ideas on reaching out in breakthrough ways to Hispanics and other ethnic consumers for Children's Tylenol, and well as her work launching more overarching brand franchise work for Tylenol.

She hasn't disappointed the higher-ups at J&J. According to Information Resources Inc., for the week of April 20, the Splenda brand came in No. 1 in the nearly $300 million tabletop sweetener market, with a 34.2% share of the category vs. 27.4% for Merisant Co.'s Equal and 25% for Cumberland Packing Co.'s Sweet `N Low. IRI data include food and drugstores and mass markets. (Some estimates of the tabletop sweetener market are closer to $1.2 billion because they also include the sizable foodservice market and other outlets.)

In 52-week IRI data for the period ended March 23, Splenda is a close No. 2 behind Equal, but with sales growth of 82% vs. Equal's decline of 7.5% and flat sales for Sweet `N Low.

The growth can be attributed, according to Ms. Rewey, to a consistent message for Splenda, which has been positioned from day one as the only no-calorie sweetener made with sugar. That message has been brought to life via TV advertising from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Alchemy, New York. Its message was driven home through a variety of "passion-point marketing" sampling, including a Valentine's Day promotion offering Splenda-sweetened Necco sweethearts. McNeil spent $12.3 million marketing Splenda in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

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