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Colgate-Palmolive is using Thailand as the springboard for its worldwide introduction of Nouriche shampoo, a brand planned for Australia, Europe and Latin America by this summer.

With Nouriche, the company also plans to make itself a worldwide contender in shampoos, where it now trails Procter & Gamble Co., the world's largest marketer of shampoo.

"Nouriche is big. It's one of the largest launches [in the personal care category] that has ever been done [in Asia]" said Marie McCarthy, account executive at DY&R Hong Kong, a sister agency of DY&R Thailand handling the introduction.

The treatment shampoo, designed to go head-to-head with P&G's Pantene, started with Thailand because "Thailand is one of the biggest and most important markets in southeast Asia," said C-P Hong Kong Marketing Manager C.H. Chow. He said that with a projected gross national product growth of 8% during the next two years, Thailand is one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

The Thai market is so promising, in fact, that for the first time the company is shelling out a major budget for the product in the country, spending $10.3 million on a TV, print and sampling blitz that will also run in the other markets, created jointly by DY&R's New York and Bangkok offices.

The Nouriche marketing budget for Thailand actually is so high it actually rivals overall Colgate measured media spending last year of $10 million.

The effort, with the themeline, "Strong hair is beautiful hair," shows a silver barbell balanced in the silky long hair of a Eurasian and will run with slight adaptions in most markets. The copy for the three-shampoo, three-conditioner line promotes the products as containing "Carbo and Hydro [ingredient] strengthening complexes which strengthen the hair's inner core."

In Thailand, Colgate also distributed millions of product samples by mail and through the public transportation system, while in Hong Kong, where Nouriche was introduced in April, 2 million samples were given away in newspapers and at mass transit stations.

Premium-priced Nouriche (at $3.00 a bottle in Thailand versus Pantene's $2.77 and Vidal Sasoon's $3.17 price tag) is promoted as a protein enriched, salon-quality treatment for hair at a higher cost than two-in-one conditioner shampoos. "Consumers want more choices these days and the market trend is toward more sophisticated treatment shampoos," said Ms. McCarthy.

Moreover, Nouriche is Colgate's shot at catching up with P&G. "[Nouriche] will make us a big player in shampoo, an area we have not been very active in. We've only just started," said Mr. Chow. In Hong Kong, for example, P&G controls 50% of the $51 million shampoo market for its Head & Shoulders, Rejoice, Pantene and Vidal Sassoon brands, as compared to Colgate's 10% for Optima and now Nouriche. "Obviously to succeed in the market you need a multi-brand strategy," said Mr. Chow. The remaining 40% is split between Kao Corp.'s Sifone and Unilever's Sunsilk and Organics lines.

Mr. Chow said Colgate has such confidence in Nouriche that it hopes to add another 7-8 points to the company's shampoo share in Hong Kong alone.

Colgate wouldn't discuss plans for the Nouriche rollout into other markets or whether the brand would eventually make it to the U.S., where the company is a minor shampoo player.

"All I can say is that we are obviously spending a lot of money on this brand," Mr. Chow said.

David Butler and Pat Sloan contributed to this story.

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