THE MARKETING 100; JOHN VENEMA;SNAKELIGHT

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At first, Black & Decker wasn't convinced a flashlight could sell for five times the average price, even if it was flexible.

That was before John Venema, product general manager at the company's U.S. Household Products Group, along with other key marketing people, lit the way.

"Until the SnakeLight came into the market, the average price of a flashlight was somewhere around $5," says Mr. Venema, 43. "Selling a $30 flashlight in large quantities was not a small challenge."

But since its October introduction, more than 1 million Black & Decker SnakeLight flashlights have been sold, and the company expects the product could be even more successful than its Dustbuster.

Part of the product's success is its design. "The product is kinda cool," Mr. Venema says of the bending flashlight.

But the other reason is the marketing group's positioning of SnakeLight as a "task" light, with clever advertising.

Mr. Venema says TV advertising was the best medium to demonstrate how the SnakeLight could stand alone, be wrapped around a pipe or even be hung around a person's neck to free both hands when working on household or automotive projects.

The estimated $8 million campaign, created by McCann-Erickson Worldwide, featured a send-up of "The Wanderer" playing during vignettes showing different uses from the product.

"When the TV advertising hit-that's when we really blew it apart," says Mr. Venema.

This year, the company plans to keep the momentum going with more derivatives of the SnakeLight.

Already there's a SnakeLight just for auto mechanics; it adapts to different positions for illuminating a car's underbelly.

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