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Mead Johnson Nutritionals' "Enfamil Family Beginnings Program," a direct mail effort aimed at expectant and new mothers, has helped elevate a No. 2 brand to No. 1 in its category over the past three years.

"It was the second leading formula in the U.S. in 1996," said Mitch West, director of customer relationship marketing at Mead Johnson, a division of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. "Now we're No. 1 [in sales]. This program has had a huge impact on that."

Direct mail was a natural. Mead Johnson notes there are 4 million to 5 million households with expectant or new mothers, out of about 110 million households total in the U.S.; Mr. West said TV and out-of-home would be an inefficient spend for that size group.

A series of mailings from WPP Group's RTC Direct, Washington, to about 1 million potential customers annually begins with a congratulatory note from Enfamil to the expectant mother. The note, like all subsequent mailings, contains a specific response device such as a questionnaire. The mailings also include a sample of Enfamil timed to the mother's expected due date.

Mailings, which are rich with information about the infant nutrition and health, begin during a pregnant woman's second trimester and continue until the child is 101/2 months old. Contact with consumers varies but can be anywhere from five to

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