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ONCE UPON a time, toothpaste was toothpaste. Usage was a matter of habit, and there was no particular reason to use one brand versus another. Except that’s what your parents bought. It was the brand you grew up with. Colgate was the category leader—until Crest came along with a huge idea. What was Procter & Gamble’s Big Idea? Add fluoride directly to the toothpaste. (This, in a time when freedom-loving Americans were still arguing about whether their local town should “poison” their water supply by adding fluoride to the water. It was a daring move by Crest.) Once P&G decided to take that step, they pushed it as far as they could. First, they got the American Dental Association to endorse the new ingredient in Crest—and ...

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