Marketing 50: Page Five

Spudware, Skinny Bitch, Vaseline, Chocolate, Laura's, Keen, Always, Yahoo Answers, iPhone, Seventh Generation

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Photo: Tony Pettinato
Steven Levine spent 25 years selling Styrofoam plates and plastic cutlery until a light bulb came on -- a green one.

Mr. Levine, 55, and co-founder Allen King started Excellent Packaging and Supply and set out to get America off its unsustainable plastic habit. As VP-director of sales and marketing, Mr. Levine is selling SpudWare, compost-able cutlery, plates and lids made from potatoes, sugar, wheat and other food byproducts. SpudWare is baked in cutlery-shaped molds. Once used, the utensils can be composted into fertilizer to nurture potato crops. In California's trendsetting cities, he started by gaining product acceptance through wholesale customers such as vendors at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza farmers market. With a partnered website and Bay Area retailers selling the cutlery line, Mr. Levine has ramped up his marketing. Sales in 2006 were $5 million, and he says the company expects that to double to $10 million this year, with almost all of the growth in environmental packaging and utensils.
-- Alice Z. Cuneo
Photo: Tony Pettinato
Craig Herman knows the power of a big-name endorsement. A president can turn a novel into a best-seller just by being pictured with it, and, as Mr. Herman found out this year, a former Spice Girl can do the same for a vegan diet book.

Victoria Beckham was snapped holding a copy of "Skinny Bitch" this year. Smart management of the buzz by Mr. Herman, VP-associate publisher at Running Press, an imprint of Perseus Books, helped make it nothing less than a cultural sensation. Weekly sales hit 20,000 copies at one point, and there are now 700,000 copies in print, off an initial run of just 15,000. "It's rare that a celebrity will be seen with a book," says Mr. Herman, 46. "It's also rare that you can pinpoint a tipping point like that and say, 'That's it.' "

No cultural observer could resist the irony of a book called "Skinny Bitch" being held by a ... well, let's just call Ms. Beckham a very, very thin woman. Aggressive post-Posh advertising and PR made the book and its authors, Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, fixtures on shows such as "Today" and "The View," countless newspaper style pages, and even more blogs. It's all paved the way for two more "Skinny Bitch" tomes: a recipe book and a guide for pregnant women.
Vaseline had been around more than 130 years, but the past 30 had seen steady share declines. The way back to growth began in 2005 as Vaseline redoubled efforts to spend time with consumers and named a new agency, says Brand Director Srini Sripada.

Marketers noticed African-American consumers making "cocktails" of cocoa butter, petroleum jelly and lotion to combat ashy skin. "We said, 'Why can't we give them a product ... they want?'" says Mr. Sripada, 42.

Vaseline Cocoa Butter, launched in 2006, became the No. 1 hand-and-body lotion for African-Americans and fueled more than a year of double-digit sales growth, plus share gains for the brand overall. Information Resources Inc. put Vaseline sales for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 2 at $118.7 million. "Keep skin amazing" ads by Bartle Bogle Hegarty focus artful photography on celebrating skin in its many hues. It's about not taking skin for granted, Mr. Sripada says. Certainly Unilever is no longer taking Vaseline for granted either.
-- Jack Neff
Verizon Wireless executives said they decided to forgo Steve Jobs' kind offer for an exclusive on the iPhone because of all the strings attached. But the carrier made its own move, offering customers something sweet before the iPhone hit the marketplace: Chocolate, an LG phone with music and other advanced capabilities. Its seduction was featured in TV spots simply showing the phone unwrapped, as if it were a chocolate bar. But the secret sauce went beyond paid media to include wild postings, radio and YouTube videos.

Internally, John Harrobin, 38, VP-advertising and digital media, peppered sales teams in stores with alerts and other teasers about the phone's launch. "We romanced the phone in a way we hadn't done before," he says. Verizon has sold 3.4 million Chocolate handsets in the year they've been on the market. It never officially sold the phones with chocolate, although a number of retailers did go for the nose by wafting chocolate fragrance and scattering chocolates on displays.
-- Alice Z. Cuneo
Laura Freeman wanted to lose weight. But the Kentucky cattle farmer had trouble finding the naturally raised lean beef she wanted in stores–so she solved the problem in a big way.

Laura's Lean Beef is a $150 million-plus business, having grown at double-digit rates for several years . Rather than grow through natural-food chains, a rarity around Lexington, Ky., Ms. Freeman, 50, took her brand more mainstream, largely through Kroger Co., which features the brand prominently.

She's used her blog, recipe-laden website and e-mail newsletters to build the brand with a growing fan base that's become familiar with her face on the label.

Not even a horse-riding accident that required a helicopter evacuation could slow down her or the brand. Instead, it provided some inspiration. She blogged that lying flat on her back, she was at eye level with a lot of people's behinds, noting: "They all were way too wide!"
-- Jack Neff
Photo: Tony Pettinato
If you promise to build sustainability, young people will come.

At least that's what green comfort-shoe marketer Keen is promoting. Since launching its environment-themed "Stand" campaign within its larger "HybridLife" effort this August, the footwear company has won over the under-35 set, says VP-Marketing Bobbie Parisi, 50.

Monthly traffic on its website is up 58%; e-mail newsletter sign-ups are up 90%; and the marketer received more than 400 submissions for a Hybrid contest handled by Forty Forty, Berkeley, Calif. The campaign includes ads in 14 publications such as Dwell, a film and posters distributed to college campuses, plus a set of brand ambassadors talking up the product.

The talk is paying off for Keen, which has seen a 30% growth in the U.S. market each year since it started and sells its products in 1,500 retail locations. This past year, Keen saw 40% growth in its international market. Keen promotes its use of natural and recycled materials in its products, including the Ventura shoe with recycled eyelets for the laces. What more could entice today's college kids?
-- Stephanie Thompson
Procter & Gamble Co. has led the U.S. sanitary-pad category since 1996 with its Always brand. But this year, marketing has helped moved the brand's share past the 50% barrier, up nearly three points from a year ago, according to ACNielsen data from Sanford C. Bernstein.

Behind that gain are new products such as Always Clean (a pad paired with a cleansing wipe) and an unusual ad campaign from Leo Burnett, Chicago, with the tagline "Have a happy period." The campaign uses such lines as "It's OK to skip the gym" in transit ads. P&G also used its teen health site,, to promote the products.

Ilonka Laviz, 33, associate marketing director, claims pad users have a sunnier outlook on periods than tampon users. "Her period is a natural part of being a woman," she says of the Always consumer. "These women are using their period as an excuse to indulge ... be a little more irritated or irrational, or pamper [themselves]." The effort's been controversial -- and successful because of that, she says.
-- Jack Neff
While Google shut down its Q-and-A service in early 2007, Yahoo Answers, introduced in 2006, has become one of the portal's most popular products. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, traffic to Yahoo Answers has grown from 10.5 million monthly unique visitors in September 2006 to almost 14.5 million last month.

Most responsible for the service's success are its users, quick to pitch in with advice. But Vish Makhijani, general manager and senior VP-Yahoo Search, also has been responsible -- for having patience with the site in terms of monetization. Mr. Makhijani, 38, has shown restraint, choosing to let it grow organically before launching a major monetization plan (soon to come, says Yahoo).

"The search experience is going to become richer," Mr. Makhijani told the San Jose Mercury News. It's especially important since it's an asset that rival Google no longer has. Yahoo has made Answers part of its consumer push themed "Life is a little bit better with Yahoo."
-- Abbey Klaassen
In setting out to launch the iPhone, Apple CEO Steve Jobs carefully orchestrated a program of hype, viral buzz, event marketing, TV advertising and unmitigated PR triumph.

After months of hide-and-seek, he hijacked the attention of thousands of the world's technorati at the Consumer Electronics Show. When the product finally came out, lines formed in front of Apple stores, a New York Times columnist literally sang and danced in his online review, and well-crafted ads (from TBWA/Chiat/Day) beautifully explained the phone and its features. With more than 1 million phones sold, Mr. Jobs decided to give the phone a Christmas goose, dropping the price by $200. When bloggers and online critics screamed, he offered them $100 store rebates so they could buy, yes, more Apple items.
-- Alice Z. Cuneo
Environmental activist, author and product marketer Jeffrey Hollender knew he was onto something two decades ago. Now everyone from consumers to Wal-Mart has caught on.

The household and personal-care products of Seventh Generation have seen sales soar 40% to more than $100 million this year, capping several years of strong double-digit growth.

The CEO has been an ardent blogger, in the process winning over students to lobby colleges to adopt his green products.

Mr. Hollender likes much of what Wal-Mart is doing about sustainability, but he still says no to selling there. "When you're growing 40% without Wal-Mart, you have to think carefully about bringing on a customer that size," says Mr. Hollender, 52.
-- Jack Neff
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