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Company: Philips Consumer Lifestyle
Number of employees: 22,700
Contact: 1600 Summer St.; PO Box
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Quote about Costco: “At Philips, the
consumer is at the heart of everything
we do. Costco shares this same passion
for their members.”—Sharon Rossi, senior
vice president and sector market leader for
Philips Consumer Lifestyle, North America
Sonicare celebrates 20 years of success
By Teri Cettina
JUS T A FEW decades ago, the idea of putting
a battery-powered device in your mouth to
clean your teeth was almost unthinkable.
Today, it’s commonplace. The toothbrush that
gets much of the credit for this
sea change in the world of oral
care: Sonicare®, which this year
celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Back in the early 1990s, a
number of major healthcare
companies were experimenting
with the concept of “sonic”
toothbrushes. The hope was
that these devices would use
high-tech sound waves to clean
teeth of plaque, the sticky bacteria that can eventually lead to
oral cavities and gum disease.
However, no company had yet
come up with a commercially
feasible sonic brush.
Along came David Giuliani. The engi-neer-turned-entrepreneur was experimenting
with his own consumer-oriented sonic gadgets in the early 1990s when bioengineering
professor Roy Martin and periodontics professor David Engel found him. Their challenge to Giuliani: Help them build a company
around a sonic toothbrush prototype they
had developed. He signed on.
After a few years of trial and error and
some groundbreaking design improvements
by Giuliani, the trio achieved success. Sound
waves created by their toothbrush vibrated
the brush’s bristles beautifully—and, more
important, helped the brush do a masterful
job of cleaning teeth and removing plaque.
David Giuliani was
featured as part of a
story in July 1997.
Tracey Jacobs, a central Florida dental
hygienist, remembers first learning about the
brush from a patient. “I noticed a significant
difference in his mouth during an appointment and asked him what he was doing differently.” His answer: Sonicare. Jacobs decided
to try a Sonicare herself—and was immediately hooked. Part of her paid work now
involves educating other dental professionals
about the brush.
In 2000, the global healthcare company
Philips bought Optiva and its Sonicare toothbrush. Giuliani went on to run several other
successful companies, as well as co-found
and currently chair Washington Business
Alliance, an alliance of entrepreneurial businesses. Meanwhile, Philips has focused on
further developing the Sonicare line.
“The sonic technology in our brushes is
basically the same as it was 20 years ago, but
we’ve layered consumer requests on top of
that to design new versions,” explains Philips
spokesperson Shannon Jenest. “We devel-
oped a model that focuses on whitening. We
also introduced other brushes with multiple
brushing and massaging modes, so every user
can find a setting that fits his or her needs.”
Jenest says that in addition to the average
consumer who would benefit from its use,
Sonicare has great value for some niche groups:
the elderly, people with manual-dexterity chal-
lenges who have trouble brushing, anyone with
even mild gum disease and children.
Periodontist Low considers the Sonicare
a must for his patients who’ve undergone significant dental work. “If you’ve spent $400 on
a filling or $4,000 on an implant, why wouldn’t
you invest in a toothbrush that will prevent
you from paying to have that work done
again?” he asks.
“Most of us are using technology in other
parts of our lives, from our smartphones to
GPS devices and more,” adds Jacobs, the
hygienist. “I tell patients that since we’re living
longer and want to keep our teeth as we age,
it’s time we embrace the latest technology in
our oral care, too.” C
JUNE 2013 ;e Costco Connection 49
Teri Cettina is a Portland, Oregon, writer.