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Expectations couldn't have been higher for Gillette Co.'s Mach3 razor, given the combined $1 billion in marketing and research and development budgets.

"We had a very tough internal standard, which was Sensor," whose 1993 debut was "a launch of mythic proportions for Gillette," says John Darman, 49, leader of the 10-person team behind Mach3 marketing as VP-men's shaving.

By all measures, Mach3 hit its target. It became the top-selling razor and replacement blade in the U.S. and every other country where it has been launched, adding 3.7 points to Gillette's overall U.S. razor and blade share. At more than 70%, that is the highest since 1962. Three of four men who tried Mach3 are still using it, Mr. Darman says.

Gillette kept a lid on leaks and built anticipation to unleash a torrent of free publicity, generating 750 million media impressions prior to launch and 1.6 billion overall.

A global marketing campaign of $200 million took its cue from the aerodynamic design of the razor itself. Gillette and BBDO Worldwide, New York, built ads around the idea of breaking barriers to a new level of performance.

Mr. Darman, since promoted to senior VP of writing instruments, says the key to success was the selling line "A closer shave in fewer strokes with less

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