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Ever since Lever Bros. knocked Procter & Gamble Co. out of the No. 1 spot in the $1.4 billion bar-soap category, P&G has been plotting its comeback.

Its mission: come up with a bar-soap formula and marketing campaign that would pull the bathmat out from under Lever 2000, launched three years ago as a moisturizing bar soap for the family.

With Anne Martin managing, P&G developed a moisture-enriched bath bar and, instead of introducing a new brand name, linked it to its powerful Oil of Olay facial skincare brand.

Ms. Martin, marketing director for P&G's personal cleansing products category, took an unusual marketing approach for the $30 million launch of Olay Moisturizing Bath Bar. TV spots from Wells Rich Greene BDDP, New York, not only pushed the Olay heritage of helping skin maintain its youthful appearance but talked bluntly about price.

The brand's positioning has paid off. In May 1993, one month after introduction, P&G regained the top spot in the personal-cleansing category with a 32.5% overall share, compared with 31.5% for Lever. By May 1994, the product commanded sales of $92.4 million through supermarkets, drug and mass merchandise outlets, according to Information Resources Inc.

The beauty of it is, experts say, the bath bar is bringing new users to the entire Olay franchise. Nice touch.

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