Speaking at the The Marketing Society's annual conference, Camillo Pane, general manager at Reckitt, said marketing had been at the core of the business since Reckitt and Coleman merged with Benckiser in 1999.
He said: "In 2009, the most challenging market conditions yet, we raised marketing spend by 8%."
The Ftse 100 company, with net sales of £7.75bn in 2009, stressed the importance of marketing when competing with even larger rivals such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever.
Pane said: "Marketing investment has always been high for the company, in the 12%-13% of revenue range, far higher than most companies, and has consequently driven sharp growth for the company."
Pane said this approach underpinned the success of its "powerbrands", driven by "speed of execution, obsession for our brands, being truly global, an entrepreneurial company with the right people, and socially responsible."
He said work to develop Air Wick Freshmatic was a good example of the Reckitt machine at work: "This launched in just eight months from concept to development in the UK and then rolled out to 60 markets within a year.
"We wanted to be first to market, and it now drives 15% of global air freshening sales."
Reckitt's general manager also said the company was "excited" to take on the brands held by SSL, which Reckitt bought earlier this month in a £2.5bn deal.
It will extend the company's footprint into sexual health and footcare with brands including Durex and Scholl.