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The public has been duly warned about the health hazards of failing to keep body arteries free of greasy buildup. Julia Stern took that advice one step further and applied it to the maintenence of home drain pipes.

New Liquid-Plumr Build-Up Remover was the result of "a very holistic approach" to both the homeowners' problems and Clorox's new-product development, says Ms. Stern, the former Liquid-Plumr brand manager promoted to brand manager for laundry new products last November.

When Ms. Stern started on the business in August 1992, Clorox was looking to extend Liquid-Plumr's brand equity. The $285 million category had been dripping along at a 1% to 3% growth rate.

About that time, Clorox noticed some regional products using naturally occurring micro-organisms as drain-pipe buildup-prevention agents. Clorox decided to come up with a national entry.

The challenge was to get consumers "to embrace the notion that they needed to use a product to clean drains on a regular basis," says Ms. Stern, a Harvard M.B.A.

For its introduction in August 1993, an $8 million advertising campaign from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, showed a plumber explaining the Clorox solution for keeping drains flowing smoothly. ( Young & Rubicam, San Francisco, now handles the account.)

Ms. Stern helped develop a business plan and strategy that brought the product from concept to national expansion in less than a year.

Minimarket trials were kept in place for only a few months, instead of years as is the norm. "As soon as we got initial results, we moved ahead," she says.

Now other Clorox brands are using the Liquid-Plumr Build-Up Remover launch as a model.

"That timing is no longer unusual," she says.

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