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When Procter & Gamble Co. was planning to introduce Aleve, its first major analgesic and one of the biggest prescription-to-OTC switchovers ever, the marketing team used rival Advil as a benchmark.

Advil was regarded as the model for Rx-to-OTC marketing because the American Home Products brand pulled a 4% share in its first year of national distribution. But Aleve, says Kris Malkoski, marketing director of the analgesics category at P&G, topped that record.

According to Information Resources Inc., the brand racked up a 5.3% share of the $2.7 billion category by Feb. 26, after only eight months in national distibution. By mid-May, that share had climbed to 7.6%.

"We've set a new gold standard," says Ms. Malkoski.

The secret is in the marketing. Backed by an introductory $100 million advertising and promotion effort themed "All day strong. All day long," Ms. Malkoski, 34, attributes the brand's success to that positioning.

P&G felt that most pain reliever ads talked down to consumers, so Aleve advertising avoided that. "There was a very wide window of opportunity for us to talk to pain sufferers in a more meaningful way," says Ms. Malkoski.

The resulting campaign from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, consistently "scores at least double the trial potential that Advil and Tylenol measure," she adds. Vicom/FCB, San Francisco, does professional marketing.

Demand has been so strong for Aleve-the first product from P&G's venture with Hoffman-LaRoche's Syntex Healthcare division-that P&G initially had a hard time filling retailers' orders.

"We had to pull back on promotion between October and April 1, until production could catch up," says Ms. Malkoski. "Now, we've turned the marketing support back on. We're doing in-store sampling and couponing. And our share is taking off again."

To Ms. Malkoski, the brand's momentum is especially rewarding given the difficulty of making consumers switch pain relievers.

"What we've seen is a slow dwindling of the number of analgesics consumers stock [in their medicine cabinets], from Aleve as one of three brands to Aleve as one of two brands.....the trend is going in our direction."

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