Abandoning yogurt's usual pastel packaging, Activia was launched last year with bold logo colors in a hunter-green package, supported by $30 million on spot, network and cable TV via Young & Rubicam, New York. There was no print and little online advertising.
"We spent a long time developing a product that would sell itself," says Andreas Ostermayr, Dannon's chief marketing officer. "TV was the fastest way to get the word out, and after that it was word-of-mouth."
Women were told Activia really works to help regulate the digestive system, and during the product's first eight weeks, there were more than 70,000 downloads of the study on its website explaining how.
Activia sales soared 213.1% in dollar sales in its first year, and the brand contributed to 60% of the growth in the yogurt category this year, according to Dairy Management Inc.
Yet in each of the past three years, it's taken a sizable chunk of its budget and put it toward experimental projects aimed at getting "our brand spirit out on the street -- you can't do that with a print ad," says Lani Hayward, 40, exec VP-creative strategies. To break into the bank-saturated California market, two Umpqua trucks handed out free ice cream in summer and hot chocolate in winter to prospective customers. "It breaks through," Ms. Hayward says. "It's not such blatant advertising. It takes you by surprise."
It also gave really small loans of $10 and start-up kits to young lemonade-stand entrepreneurs as part of a "Lemonaire" program that generated buzz. Umpqua's sweet approach is paying off: In Oregon, the FDIC moved the bank from sixth to fifth in its rankings. In California, the Lemonaire promotion picked up 1,500 new small to medium-size business customers.
"Our new-client leads began to flatten," says VP-Marketing Scott Parker, 51. Enter Valerie Bertinelli, TV personality with a girl-next-door image and 30 pounds to lose. The pairing was a huge hit, resulting in an immediate 30% boost in calls to Jenny Craig's toll-free number. Mr. Parker says he could tell within a day it was a hit. Response to the TV campaign was fed by content on Valerie's video blog on the Jenny Craig website. "Valerie was a tiny bit offended when she heard why we were calling," Mr. Parker says, "but it's worked out fabulously. She's thin, and now she's writing a book."
A pretty good one: Amid some of the fiercest competition ever in the U.S. razor market, Bic this year expanded from its foothold in disposables into the bigger razor-systems market with its Soleil brand. Bic has added $9 million in system sales while gaining 0.7 share points in disposables in the 52 weeks ended Sept. 9, according to Information Resources Inc. Ads from Source Marketing, Westport, Conn., and Hemisphere Droit, Clichy, France, focus on the brand's fun character.
"It's been incremental to the Soleil franchise," says Susan Lanzarotto, 35, director of shaver marketing at Bic Consumer Products USA. It's added sales from handles and cartridges but didn't lose any business from disposables as a result."
The popular consumer-review site is a household name in San Francisco and is quickly spreading to cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles; its unique visitors have grown 133% to 1.65 million a month, according to ComScore. For Jeremy Stoppelman, the 30-year-old founder and CEO of the site, the success is a result of trying not to do too much too soon. That kind of restraint is rare in a booming internet start-up industry.
"We didn't want to be mediocre in every city," he says. "We wanted to be awesome in San Francisco." The site spent a year concentrating on marketing itself in its hometown. And by going deep in one geographic area, it convinced people in the Bay Area of its value. Blog chatter about Yelp helped seed interest in other cities, and Yelp began its expansion. In each city, it employs a community manager, whose job is to manage street marketing, offline meet-ups and events, and a weekly newsletter.
RPA, Santa Monica, Calif., created a "Something New to Crave" theme for the launch last fall that started with TV but moved into a photo-sharing blitz. Disneyland visitors could have their photos taken with the CR-V and retrieve the photos online. RPA bought boards at 86 malls in 10 cities.
Mr. Peyton, 52, dialed up online spending, with a broad buy of search-marketing terms that drove traffic to crave.honda.com. There, visitors could submit photos with descriptions of what they craved.
Honda's CR-V is sitting pretty. The latest generation of the small SUV was the best-selling SUV of any size in 2007's first nine months, tallying sales of 167,223 units. Mr. Peyton is also pleased with the new CR-V's demographics. "Generally that size SUV does not appeal to men, but the CR-V hasn't been labeled a chick car."
Sales of the long-aged, hyperpremium blended whiskey, which comes in a serial-numbered bottle that lies in a silk-lined box, should anyone miss the point, grew more than 100% between 2001 and 2006, to slightly more than 20,000 cases, according to the alcohol trade magazine Impact. So last year, parent Diageo North America gave it a further boost -- the brand's first full-fledged branding campaign, which consisted mostly of stylish print ads in upscale magazines via Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York.
The idea, says VP Bill Topf, isn't merely to sell more bottles of Blue Label, although it has. Exposure for Blue Label "positively impacts the entire Johnnie Walker trademark," including the much larger -- and cheaper -- Black Label and Red Label blends. How's that working out? Johnnie Walker's U.S. sales are up 7% this year vs. a 2% decline for Scotch in general.
Energizer has picked up one and a half share points in alkaline batteries and two points in all other batteries since 2005, according to Information Resources Inc. Products such as portable cellphone and iPod chargers have put the bunny in new markets. And its stock has more than doubled since 2005.
Jeff Ziminski, 44, global chief marketing officer for Energizer, is leading the charge. Mr. Ziminski, who's worked on the brand since 1998, credits the "Keep Going" campaign from TBWA/Chiat/Day for paving the way. "Consumers clearly identify the bunny as the symbol of perseverance and long-lasting quality," he says.
Pro-Health has reached $100 million in sales, adding about two share points for Crest, according to Information Resources Inc. Ads from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, focused on Pro-Health as the only toothpaste that addresses the seven oral-care issues that concern dentists most. "We knew this launch could not be good -- it had to be great," Ms. Dietz says, noting that P&G delayed Pro-Health for more than a year to get the product, packaging and ads right.
Photo: Tony Pettinato
No more. These days, wearing a pair of Ray-Bans comes entirely without Tom Cruise associations, a cultural shift that's allowing millions to partake in a classic American brand experience in an irony-free manner. For that you can thank Fabio d'Angelantonio, 38. Since Luxottica bought the brand from Bausch & Lomb in 1999 and shaped up the design, it's no longer in low-rent retail environments such as gas stations.
The past two years have seen a major effort under a "Forever Ray-Ban" platform. Mr. d'Angelantonio and Erika Ferszt, 33, group advertising manager, have been seeding shades with celebrities such as Kirsten Dunst, doing PR events and developing new ads. Its biggest paid-media push in recent memory was Cutwater's "Never hide" campaign, the most awesome part of which was a viral video called "Sunglass Catch" that's gotten more than 3 million YouTube views. For the past four years, Ray-Ban experienced year-over-year double-digit sales increases and doubled its size between 2000 and 2006.