Band-Aid Wars: Adding Extensions To Injury

It's war. And the battlefield is your kid's boo-boo. The leaders of the adhesive-bandage industry are using line extensions to cut into one another's hottest market: tiny consumers. Johnson & Johnson launched a new look: Band-Aids bearing the visages of Cookie Monster and Big Bird. Curad owners Ken-: dall-Futuro introduced Happy Strips, a tyke-size line of bandages printed with McDonald's characters. A smaller company, DuCair Bioessence of North Bergen, N.J., features a line of picture bandages that includes the Muppets, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Care Bears and even G.I. Joe.

All sides expect a hit. Noting that kids make up 67 percent of the market, Kendall-Futuro CEO Joe Guarnieri points out that "after all these years, no one has ever sized a bandage just for them." John Kelley, J&J Band-Aid product director, says that size isn't everything: their research shows that moms care most about the thickness of the bandage pad.

The move to add extensions to injury is the latest stage of an escalating battle over this $260 million market. J&J has the obvious lead--after all, we call the little strips "Band-Aids," not "Curads." J&J has an estimated 65 percent of the business. Curad hopes to change that. Since Kendall-Futuro took it private in a 1988 LBO, Curad's market share has risen from about 25 to 28 percent, and it estimates a gain of 5 percentage points this year. Curad is counting on the McDonald's license for much of the boost and has almost doubled ad budgets to improve its chances. In a novel cross-promotion, strips are being handed out at McDonald's with the fast-food giant's Happy Meals for kids--32 million servings last month alone. "We were worried that we'd have finger bandages plastered all over the walls at McDonald's around the country," says Arthur Boyce, Curad's vice president of marketing. "I guess the kids are using them!"