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Venerable old brands are being expected to work even harder as package-good marketers increasingly extend those familiar names to already-existing products to boost marketing efficiency.

This practice of "overbranding" or "megabranding" borrows from successful launches of ConAgra's Healthy Choice or Nabisco Biscuit Co.'s SnackWell's and their plethora of line extensions. But in its own twist on the line-extension strategy, overbranding extends a powerful corporate name, like Dow, or brand name, like Kleenex, to sister brands already on the market.

"A lot of our work in brand identity right now is looking at how can we get more efficiency out of one brand," said John Lister, president of brand identity consultancy Lister-Butler.


Companies are turning to overbranding mainly to get more impact from marketing dollars by applying the brands to the maximum number of products, Mr. Lister said.

Such was the case with DowBrands, whose stable of household cleaning and laundry products, including Dow Bathroom Cleaner, Spray 'n Wash, Fantastik and Glass Plus, comes from two corporate entities. Parent company Dow Chemical Co. acquired Texize in 1985.

DowBrands was spending $7 million to $8 million apiece annually in marketing support for those individual brands, said Mike McLain, president-CEO. By consolidating these products' marketing efforts last summer under the Dow name, it has put $25 million to $30 million in marketing support behind a single brand.

Anchoring the effort are TV spots by Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, featuring Dow researchers in their dual roles as scientists and homemakers. Individual products are still featured, but the approach and the researchers are the same for all spots. DowBrands also uses free-standing inserts for couponing of all products.

The new approach has allowed DowBrands to cut head count in the marketing department by 30% and agency fees by 20%, Mr. McLain said. What he terms "non-working consumer promotions" have been cut 30%.

With what it saves from being more efficient, DowBrands can put more money into advertising, ultimately hoping to increase media spending to $20 million from less than $15 million currently, Mr. McLain said.

While it's too soon to gauge impact on sales, he said factory shipments are up by "double digits" and consumer sales are up by near double digits since June.


Kimberly-Clark Corp., in the wake of its acquisition of Scott Paper Co. last year, has used a similar approach, extending its Kleenex brand across premium products of both companies while keeping the Scott name on value products.

Kleenex and Cottonelle bathroom tissue were merged into a single Kleenex/Cottonelle brand, while the Kleenex brand was added prominently to Viva and Job Squad paper towels.

The Kleenex name is used as a "trustmark," much in the way it worked with the introduction of the Huggies disposable diaper brand in the 1970s, a spokeswoman said. As Huggies became the market-leading diaper brand, the Kleenex co-brand has faded in prominence.

So far, however, the Kleenex brand hasn't carried as much weight with bathroom tissue and paper towels. Kimberly-Clark's share in both categories is down slightly since the overbranding approach began in the spring of 1996, according to Dean Witter Reynolds.

Reckitt & Colman used overbranding to boost awareness of its sagging air-freshener products, extending its Wiz-ard brand last year from spray air fresheners to the Stick-Ups air freshener, and Love My Carpet rug and room deodorizer brand.

Company research found consumers who use more than one form of air freshener account for 70% of category volume, and a spokeswoman said the 30-year-old Wizard brand should help products with less consumer awareness.

The company could use some magic from Wizard. Reckitt & Colman was a distant third in the $512 million air-freshener market, with a 10.3% share for 1996,

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