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The long-slumbering Culligan Man has been awakened at Culligan Water Technologies, where new management is introducing products and re-igniting a national advertising program dormant for some 15 years. The water-treatment company is pouring itself into new niches-most notably retail sales of on-the-faucet water purifiers.


Culligan recently introduced a line of water filters that garnered orders from such powerful retailers as Dayton Hudson Corp.

Culligan President-CEO Douglas A. Pertz is promising a $4 million national ad budget, Culligan's first since the early '80s. Three TV commercials and four radio spots are now airing, via Grant/Jacoby, Chicago.

But some three-dozen water filter marketers have failed in efforts to crack retail channels over the past decade. Profit margins are significantly thinner than in the water softener and bottled-water businesses for which Culligan is best known.


"This business looks easier than it is. I've watched a lot of competitors come and go," said Charles Couric, president of Brita Products Co., a division of Clorox Co. that claims 85% of sales in the filtered-water carafe category, which Culligan is attacking with a product in partnership with Health O Meter Products.

Nevertheless, nobody doubts the power of Culligan's brand. According to surveys, at least 90% of Americans connect the Culligan name with water treatment.

"Clorox has done a fabulous job in getting Brita established," said Peter Howell, chairman-CEO of Health O Meter. "But Culligan is absolutely the very best brand name in water filtration."

Barry Mannis, an analyst with Goldman, Sachs & Co., pegged the retail filter market at $275 million at the wholesale level, with nearly 12% annual growth.

Mr. Murphy is a correspondent for sister publication Crain's

Chicago Business.

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