THE MARKETING 100;ALTOIDS MARK SUGDEN

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Most companies dream of making a mint. For Mark Sugden, marketing manager for Altoids, making the mint was the easy part.

"The curiously strong peppermints" from Kraft Foods' Callard & Bowser-Suchard unit finally made a mark on the competitive breath-freshener category this past year with a series of clever advertising from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.

Although the British mints first appeared almost 40 years ago, it was not until recently that people in the U.S. became aware of-and enamored with-the "mints so strong they come in a metal box."

Mr. Sugden, 35, says that although Altoids' popularity has been increasing steadily over the last five years by word of mouth, it's the mint-green out-of-home ads that made Altoids a household name.

"We treated this very much as if it were a new product," he says. "The whole strategy focused in the words `curious' and `strong,' because, in essence, that's really what they are."

Even more curious are consumers, who have bought the mints after seeing outdoor boards and transit ads. One features a bodybuilder squeezing the metal box of mints with the copyline, "Nice Altoids."

Information Resources Inc. reports that the brand's business jumped 31.2%, to $18.7 million, in the 52 weeks ending Feb. 25. And that doesn't include sales in convenience stores, where Altoids sell well.

"The response has been absolutely overwhelming," says Mr. Sugden, "in terms of awareness, increased usage and even the requests we receive for the posters."

The Altoids campaign, which had a media budget that barely exceeded $1 million, proves you don't need to spend big bucks to make a big impact. That's certainly a breath of fresh air.

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