Zippo: The Marketing 100 Case Study

James Baldo, VP-Sales & Marketing, Generates Buzz, Growth

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Bucking the trend in a country where cigarette smoking is taboo, Zippo Manufacturing Co.'s year-to-year sales growth has become as reliable as its trademark lighter.

Sales have doubled to "significantly in excess of $100 million" since James Baldo's arrival at the company in 1988.

A number of factors are driving the growth at Zippo, according to Mr. Baldo, including licensing, an expanded product range and the product's status as a collectible.

"We did a market survey and realized that 30% of our customers are collectors," he says. In response, the company started working more closely with retailers, built a database, launched a "collectible of the year" promotion and expanded the lighter line to include 550 different models.

The 47-year-old VP-sales & marketing also supervised last year's hugely successful D-Day anniversary lighter.

Despite a small ad budget, the D-Day lighter received a great deal of PR and was cited in stories about the 50th anniversary of the Allies' invasion of Europe.

The company claims record shipments of lighters in the months before the June 1994 anniversary. To date, 450,000 of the D-Day lighters have been sold worldwide.

In addition, orders are flooding in for the lighter's use as a premium, with tie-ins with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris leading the pack.

Zippo is growing rapidly in Western Europe, Latin America and Russia-bolstering the brand's international presence outside of its top foreign market, Japan.

"Everyone has a Zippo story ....... It's an attitude, a lifestyle, a fashion statement," Mr. Baldo says. "It's an American icon ......... like a Harley."

It's probably no coincidence the motorcycle marketer is Zippo's largest current licensee.

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