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In 1993, David Richards moved across the Atlantic to rescue his company from a plateau-a fate that befalls many established brands.

As VP-marketing worldwide at Lens-crafters, Mr. Richards' mission was to capture what he calls "the second cycle in the life of a brand." He did just that.

Started in 1983, the subsidiary of U.S. Shoe grew to 450 U.S. stores and $650 million in annual sales within 10 years. Its message: "Custom-crafted eyeglasses in an hour."

But by 1992, the stores were hit with a lagging economy, increased competition and a marketing plan that had to be updated.

Mr. Richards, 46 and previously VP-international marketing for the company's British operations, discovered Lenscrafters customers loved the convenience but were also looking for quality and reassurance in what he considers a "semi-medical" market.

"You'll never win on product alone; you'll never win on price alone; you'll never win on convenience alone," Mr. Richards says. "But you will win if you offer legendary service."

So in the spring of '93, Mr. Richards began to look for an ad agency to create such a message. He found it in Deutsch, New York.

TV spots include a new tagline: "Helping people see better, one hour at a time," and show testimonials from Lens-crafters employees about the care and quality of their work.

The result: First-quarter '94 sales were up nearly 12% from the year before. That compared with an overall market for eyeglasses that grows roughly 1% a year, according to Mr. Richards.

Blending the company's corporate culture with the marketing strategy is what Mr. Richards credits for the recent growth of the company.

"It doesn't just come from marketing alone," he says.

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