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Dental plaque is one of the best things to happen to Dick Cantwell, VP-director of marketing at Braun North America.

He's the man responsible for the success of Braun Oral-B Plaque Remover, a joint effort of two Gillette Co. subsidiaries, Braun and Oral-B.

"We felt dual branding was essential to the success of the plaque remover," says Mr. Cantwell. "Anything associated with the product, including packages and ads, had both company names on it."

In 1991, the product's first year, Gillette invested $6 million in advertising, including a half-hour infomercial with figure skater Peggy Fleming, arranged by Script to Screen Productions, Santa Ana, Cal. Spending has since doubled to $12 million annually, including 15- and 30-second TV spots, handled now by Lowe & Partners/SMS. (The infomercial for the product-retailing at $50 and up-has been dropped due to decreased phone-order sales.)

Initially, Mr. Cantwell says, the infomercial spread the word to dentists, 98% of whom say they would recommend the power-assisted toothbrush to patients. In addition, Braun followed up with a strong marketing campaign that included direct mail, sampling and information on Oral-B materials for dental professionals.

As a result, the Braun Oral-B Plaque Remover enjoys a 20 percentage point lead over nearest competitor Bausch & Lomb in the $200 million power-assisted plaque remover category, with a 50% share.

Furthermore, Mr. Cantwell maintains the plaque remover hasn't cannibalized sales of Oral-B toothbrushes.

"In our wildest dreams we know not everyone will want to use a power-assisted toothbrush. The majority of consumers will want to stick with the manual variety."

But it doesn't hurt to dream.

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