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Procter & Gamble Co.'s Charmin has made a remarkable comeback, thanks in large part to a rather unusual merging of old and new.

The national introduction last year of Charmin Ultra was actually a "new and improved" product that replaced another brand altogether: the marketer's languishing White Cloud.

Jeff Jones, 41, president-paper products at P&G USA and also a group VP, credits an innovative sampling approach.

"For the first time, we left one-roll samples on the doors of millions of households," says Mr. Jones, who oversees Charmin.

Also, "Many of our retail customers were asked to try a new, but unidentified, bathroom tissue. ... They responded by quickly ordering and stocking it."

As a result, Charmin posted the strongest dollar gains in the close to $3 billion bathroom tissue category, with a 26.7% increase to nearly $824 million for the 52 weeks ended April 3, according to Information Resources Inc. In 1992, Charmin's supermarket sales were down about 11%.

P&G tested Charmin Ultra in Southeast markets in late '92, with the challenge of converting White Cloud's small yet loyal customer base to Charmin. Packaging was used to explain the change, and consumers responded.

Charmin Ultra went national in 1993, with advertising from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York.

Mr. Jones, who began his career with P&G in 1976, after receiving an MBA from Harvard, notes in typical corporate overstatement and understatement: "Charmin Ultra's superior absorbency and softness, combined with a novel approach to communicating these benefits, has led to very strong share results."

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