Magazine article Marketing

Reckitt's Reinvents Itself

Magazine article Marketing

Reckitt's Reinvents Itself

Article excerpt

Reckitt & Coleman is shaking off its image of poor brand builder in a bid to become a heavyweight international player, writes Amanda Richards

Reckitt & Colman, best known for its Dettol, Disprin and Mr Sheen brands is undergoing a quiet revolution in the north-east of England.

The aim? To reinvent itself as a marketing-led company within the next 18 months as it tries to stave off interest from lurking predators.

It's a tall order for the UK plc which has tended not to put marketing at the top of its agenda, and grown largely on the back of buying others' brands.

As one informed source put it: "Reckitt's is past master at acquiring brands, chopping out the overhead and managing them downwards. As a result, marketing has always been the biggest variable to be tinkered with at the slightest twitch of the bottom line."

But priorities are now changing at the Hull-based company as it attempts to become an effective global marketer. Investment in marketing has recently gone from 11% to 18% of sales, bringing it in line with rival giants Procter & Gamble and Unilever.

A switch to an international category management structure, followed by an international advertising agency alignment of some kind is also on the cards.

"We are energising ourselves and our approach to business," admits John Honey, general manager of Reckitt's household division. "Traditionally we have bought brands. Now we are more focused on growing our own and that means more investment in research and development and marketing."

The transformation started 18 months ago after a strategic review of the business. Not surprisingly this showed Reckitt's had become too diversified. The result was to focus on three core areas: pharmaceuticals, household and toiletries, a decision which led to last year's $1.55bn purchase of US firm, L&F Household and the sale of Reckitt's division Colman's of Norwich, its mustard-to-barley water maker.

But while the review succeeded in concentrating Reckitt's resources, the company is still faced with the dilemma that in the developed north American and European regions, many of its brands are suffering from a traditional lack of marketing support and from being in either static or declining categories.

In the household cleaner market, for example, Reckitt's overall share has dropped from 9% in 1992 to 7.3% in 1994 (Nielsen). Other examples include air fresheners Haze and Airwick. Haze's value share stayed at 22% between 1991 and 1993 and Airwick's declined from 23% to 10% in the same period (Datamonitor). …

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