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Old-fashioned yo-yos, the most basic of toys, have gone high-tech via Yomega Corp. and its "Yo-Yo with a Brain."

Yomega markets the Brain, Fireball and Wing Force, lines of high-performance yo-yos with a mechanism that makes them spin faster and return automatically. The yo-yos are priced from $8.99 to $90.

Joyce Amaral, Yomega Corp.'s VP-director of sales and marketing, says she always had faith the toy would do well-but didn't expect the astounding success of 1997.

She won't reveal sales for the privately owned company she co-founded with her brothers, but says its "far north of [reported industry estimates of] $15 million.

"Around September it did seem to just break loose," says Ms. Amaral, 48. "The demand was a little unexpected. Our major buyers were asked to forecast their orders for the Christmas season, and their forecast was far lower than their needs."

Ms. Amaral credits what she calls Yomega's guerrilla-marketing approach for the success.

"We [have been] working directly with the retailers," she says. The success came without traditional advertising and without directly targeting children.

Ms. Amaral says "yo-yo schools," event sponsorships and local contests offered by independent retailers had a big word-of-mouth impact on sales.

"Our marketing partner retailers have been supportive all along and demonstrating in stores has been a help. `Yo-yo school' has been an individual task that some retailers are more than willing to do," she says, and credits independent kite retailers for initiating the effort.

Retailers are providing areas that feature the full line of yo-yos and accessories.

Recently Yomega put up a Web site and hired TSR, New York, to handle advertising. A TV campaign is expected in the fall.

"There is no sign of any let-up whatsover. This is the year of the high performance Yomega yo-yo," says Ms. Amaral.

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