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For the brand team on SmithKline Beecham Corp.'s Aquafresh Whitening brand, it was a classic case of sneaking up on the competition-then cleaning up.

In 1996, while industry leaders Crest, Colgate and Mentadent battled for top market share in the general toothpaste category, Aquafresh Whitening bolstered its marketing and hit baby boomers with an aggressive TV campaign from Grey Advertising, New York, focusing on both the science and results of whitening.

The marketer backed the brand with $16.7 million in measured media spending, according to Competitive Media Reporting. As a result, product sales leapt 18%.

The three leaders still command more than 58% of the market. But Aquafresh Whitening claimed 10.4% of the $1.5 billion annual U.S. toothpaste sales market-about double the share held by all whitening products.

Unlike other polishing and whitening brands like Ultrabrite, Pearl Drops and Topol, SKB's product became known as an everyday product that brightened smiles and could help prevent plaque and cavities in consumers from age 18 to their 50s, says Dave Cook, director of oral care and analgesics.

"For a lot of people, Aquafresh Whitening represented the first toothpaste that could be used by ordinary people that whitened teeth and gave them the oral care protection they want," says Mr. Cook, who worked closely with Gene Page, senior category promotion manager for oral care, and Jeff Schuldt, associate brand manager for Aquafresh, to push the scientific and general merits of the brand.

Aquafresh Whitening's success has not been closely held. Seven other products under the Aquafresh umbrella have seen sales increase as a result of the brand's marketing.

"When people recognize the science that we have brought to the whitening segment, that is some reassurance that the same science exists and supports our entire toothpaste line," Mr. Cook says. "That clearly has happened."

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