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Quaker State's new 4x4 motor oil has put some slick performance into a flat performing category.

The synthetic blend was first conceived by Bob Cohen, exec VP-marketing, in the early 1990s. While visiting the company's QLube oil-change facilities in Salt Lake City, he noticed the growing number of sport-utility vehicles on the road and wondered why no company had yet marketed a motor oil for hard-working SUV motors.

Backed by a $7.5 million media budget and one internally produced ad showing a bottle of 4x4 on wheels, Quaker State introduced its brand to an eager nation in early 1995. And it created a new niche for the lubricant industry, Mr. Cohen says.

"This is the first attempt to segment this market and bring motor oil marketing into the 20th century, so we can compete in the 21st century," he says.

Part of the product's success is its perceived premium quality. Working with Wal-Mart Stores during its August 1994 launch, the company convinced the retailer to price 4x4 at $1.87 a quart, thus protecting it from "loss leader" status.

Quaker State has strengthened its message with "emotional branding" at retail and at QLube sites, says Mr. Cohen. When customers visit any of 500 facilities, they are asked if they want 4x4.

Under the plan, the marketer can spend "virtually nothing" in media and achieve high brand awareness, he says. "4x4 really became a catalyst for turning the company around."

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