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Why P&G's Smile Is So Bright

With the fast-growing SpinBrush, the company bent its own rules--and won

Darin S. Yates had watched many consumer focus groups at Procter & Gamble Co. (PG ), but he had never witnessed a response like this. Out of a panel of 24 consumers evaluating a new electric toothbrush, 23 raved about the product, begging to take it home. "We were just blown away," the 36-year-old brand manager recalls.

But Yates, team leader on the new toothbrush, never imagined how successful the Crest SpinBrush would be. While most electric brushes cost more than $50, SpinBrush works on batteries and sells for just $5. Since that focus group in October, 2000, it has become the nation's best-selling toothbrush, manual or electric. In P&G's last fiscal year, it posted more than $200 million in global sales, helping Crest become the consumer-product maker's 12th billion-dollar brand. It has also helped Crest reclaim the title as No. 1 oral-care brand in the U.S., a position it lost to Colgate-Palmolive's Colgate brand in 1998. "It's hard for P&G's business models to conceive of a business growing as quickly as SpinBrush," Yates says.