"Guitar Hero" parties became common for both a younger set among friends and couples and an older audience reliving the rock anthems of its youth. Under the direction of Stacey Hirata, 38, VP-marketing at publisher RedOctane, the game found popularity as a marketing gimmick at bars and restaurants to draw crowds. The Xbox 360 version got additional marketing power with a campaign from Xbox agency McCann Erickson, San Francisco, and its TAG arm.
Ms. Hirata says the aggressive marketing push focused on several fronts including promotions, public relations, partnerships and retail. "It's all about where there's music, there's 'Guitar Hero,'" she says. More than 3 million games have been sold, along with another 650,000 downloads of additional music packs.
HEINEKEN PREMIUM LIGHT
Andy Glaser, Heineken brand director, and his team launched Premium Light with a media budget ($50 million) that would make Anheuser-Busch blush and slick image advertising from Berlin Cameron United, New York, that wouldn't be the least bit out of place on a boutique superpremium spirits brand. The ads, mostly TV spots, presented Heineken Premium Light as a diva in a bottle or can, backed by the beats of the Pussycat Dolls. Unlike most import-advertising efforts, there was nary a reference to its foreign roots. Heineken chose instead to announce the brand's arrival in the mainstream with brashness -- and it worked. As a result, the start-up cracked the top 10 in import sales and is up another 30% in year two, suggesting it's yet to peak. "The fact is it revived the entire franchise," investor Thomas Russo said earlier this summer.
GALE EPSTEIN AND LIDA ORZECK
Since then, annual sales of the 4811 and Hanky Panky's other intimate-apparel products have climbed from $10 million to what is expected to be almost $50 million this year. With the help of PR agency Gale Group, Hanky Panky has worked to get its thongs on the likes of Ashlee Simpson and Cameron Diaz through placement in gift lounges at awards shows and on sets and, of course, to get those wearings talked about in magazines and on TV. CEO Lida Orzeck's appearance on CNBC prompted website hits to quadruple. The brand has featured a '40s Glam Girl in its marketing materials, and that theme has inspired a raft of in-store product-preview parties. A soiree in Manhattan's 59th Street Bloomingdale's to introduce the new Hanky Panky bra helped drive sales in that store up 180%, Ms. Epstein says.
LIFE IS GOOD
"Every time we came home, we'd put our best-selling designs on a wall and invite our friends over to offer their opinions," says Bert Jacobs, 42, chief executive optimist of the Life Is Good brand (his brother and co-founder John is 39). After four dozen T-shirts with the phrase "Life is good" sold out in minutes, they knew they were onto something.
"It was more of an attitude than a brilliant business plan," Mr. Jacobs says of the company's rise to $100 million in annual sales of apparel, accessories, sports and home-decor items, all featuring the simple, iconic logo. "We tapped into something really simple: optimism, feeling good. Everyone who wore the shirt felt like they were joining a club," Mr. Jacobs says.
And while Life Is Good doesn't do traditional marketing, it's recently begun hosting charitable festivals, which it views as a social mission.
CARIBOU COFFEE BARS
Martin Abrams, 38, marketing manager, Wholesome Adult Business Unit, and his General Mills team did it when they linked to the adventure ambience of regional coffee retailer Caribou Coffee for a new line of Caribou Coffee bars.
Launched in mid-2006, the line of chocolate-dipped bars was readily accepted by Wal-Mart as well as grocery and convenience-store chains as a new "healthy indulgence" addition to the category. Caribou Coffee bar sales in food, mass and drug retailers excluding Wal-Mart grew to $25 million for the year ended June 17, according to Information Resources Inc., and that doesn't even include a new distribution channel for General Mills: the 480 Caribou stores in 18 states and D.C. More important than total sales, though, is that the line is "80%-plus incremental to existing General Mills bars," including Nature Valley, Mr. Abrams says. National print ads from Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, as well as sampling in grocery stores and in Caribou stores solidified the line's positioning. Since then, Caribou has inked an ice-cream deal with Kemp's and an iced coffee pact with Coca-Cola Co.
Tresemmé, positioned as "professional hair-care products at an affordable price," has gained share in all its segments, particularly styling, where it gained more than one and a half share points in the 52 weeks ended July 15, according to Information Resources Inc. That's pushed Tresemmé to No. 5 in U.S. hair care and No. 2 in styling aids.
Brent Shakeshaft, 44, VP-U.S. hair care has led efforts including an integration in Bravo's "Project Runway." He says the deal "has helped us make the brand more relevant."
Nonsensical marketing -- what has been dubbed "Moosejaw Madness" -- has helped build outdoor-equipment and -apparel retailer Moosejaw Mountaineering's sales 60% annually over the past five years. "It is that idiocy in marketing that resonates with our consumers," says Moosejaw founder Robert Wolfe, 37.
Moosejaw entreats consumers to "Love the Madness" through a blog, Daily Remark, on moosejaw.com and random text messages sent often to customers who've signed up to receive e-mail marketing.
Quirky questions such as "What was Vince Vaughn's character in 'Anchorman'?" and "Does Moosejaw's founder bear a resemblance to Ben Stiller?" along with games such as rock paper scissors have response rates from a minimum of 20% of the list to as high as 70%, "a ridiculous number," Mr. Wolfe says.
"Not only has Smart Balance always been trans-fat-free, but it is naturally trans-fat-free, unlike brands that achieve this chemically," says Greg Venner, its 50-year-old chief consumer officer.
Sales have gone gangbusters. According to Information Resources Inc. (which does not include Wal-Mart sales), the buttery spread is now the No. 3 margarine in grocery stores. For the calendar year through the week ended Sept. 9, Smart Balance had $59 million in sales, up 18.7% from a year ago. Meanwhile, overall sales for the margarine/buttery spreads category were down 1.4%.
Dreamed up by Gary Elliott, 56, and his Personal Systems Group marketing team headed by former Apple marketers Satjiv Chahil and David Roman, the simple notion of the "Hands" spots is to spotlight how personal HP computers are for these stars.
Beginning with rapper Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter in June 2006, the Goodby, Silverstein & Partners-created ads became popular pass-around and YouTube videos and attracted more celebrities. They included snowboarder Shaun White, entrepreneur Mark Cuban, designer Vera Wang and tennis star Serena Williams. HP, which has passed Dell in U.S. computer sales, posted companywide sales of $25.4 billion for the quarter ended July 31, up 17.1%.
Jay Kuhnie, 57, director-communications at Chrysler, calls the Unlimited launch Jeep's most integrated ever, citing gaming, wall-scapes and branded integration in TLC's "Miami Ink." (TNS Media Intelligence says Jeep spent $68 million on measured media for Wrangler from September 2006 through June 2007.)
Jeep said U.S. sales of four-door and two-door Wranglers had jumped 71% through September to 92,549 vehicles vs. a year ago.
Because owners routinely haul stuff, BBDO's ad theme showed an aerial view of the SUV carrying gear on the roof; the visually striking effect made the four-door Unlimited appear like a colorful beetle -- until it started driving through rugged outdoor landscapes. "It's clear there was a market for the vehicle," Mr. Kuhnie says.