Forever Young

Richard Owen, 32, & Todd Wichmann, 31

Redox Brands
Year Started: 2000
Based in: Cincinnati
2001 Projections: $60 million

When Procter & Gamble gave up on Oxydol detergent last year, it looked like one of the industry's oldest brands was dead. But P&G execs Richard Owen (below, left) and Todd Wichmann saw opportunity where their bosses only saw failure. Last year, the two pals quit their jobs and persuaded P&G to sell Oxydol to their fledgling company, Cincinnati-based Redox Brands.

Initially, Owen and Wichmann thought Oxydol would strike a chord with nostalgic baby boomers, but they soon discovered their target demographic had high brand loyalty to other detergents. Fortunately, research also showed that Gen X women weren't loyal to any particular brand. Owen and Wichmann saw their niche.

"Everyone in the laundry category is focused on the same user: women ages 35 and older with kids," says Wichmann. "Oxydol is speaking to younger women. We realized there's a market for a brand that speaks their language and understands their high-energy, active lifestyle."

Oxydol's marketing campaigns feature mud-stained dirt bikers and tag lines such as "Get Dirty. We Dare You." Its label reads "Don't freak. Help conquer your most extreme dirt, not to mention laundrophobia."

Owen and Wichmann have no plans to ditch their strategy of relaunching brands with heavy name recognition (the company also bought Biz bleach from P&G last year). "We want brands that have lived and thrived with high consumer awareness," says Wichmann, who projects 2001 sales of $60 million. "This allows us to focus on relaunching the brand [without] spending tens of millions of dollars just getting it known in the first place." -Peter Kooiman

Entrepreneur: What kind of advice would you give to others looking to revive an old brand?
Todd Wichmann: Make sure you are buying a brand that can actually be revived in the first place and doesn't have a fatal flaw that will prevent it from growing again under new management. There are many reasons why a brand might die or slowly fade away. The trick is knowing the difference between a classic antique car that might have some dust on it vs. an old rusted piece of junk. It takes the right kind of mechanic to know the difference!

Entrepreneur: Why Oxydol?
Wichmann: Because we knew the brand had a much larger potential under our ownership vs. the current sales it was generating. Oxydol has some of the strongest equity and history in the laundry category, but when we bought it, P&G [Procter & Gamble] had milked the brand down to only $5 million in annual sales. However, just a few years ago, Oxydol had $80 million in sales before P&G decided to start harvesting the brand because it was not a global brand. Those sales were without the benefit of having a liquid form as well.

Entrepreneur: What kinds of things do you do in your ad campaigns to attract Gen X?
Wichmann: We market to this audience using a variety of national media programs, such as print ads, billboards, radio ads, etc., targeted to our desired demographic. We also use several grass-roots or word-of-mouth campaigns. For example, we just signed a contract with a promotion company to sponsor Oxydol Suds parties at dance clubs across the country. This is a great way to reach our demographic of under 35 in age and a great way for us to distinguish ourselves [from] the competition in the laundry category.

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This article was originally published in the November 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Forever Young.

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