Marketing 50

Pringles

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Few snack-food houses have withstood the industry's big, bad wolf-PepsiCo's Frito-Lay. Even marketers the size of Keebler and Anheuser-Busch folded snack brands when Frito-Lay came huffing and puffing after them in the 1980s and 1990s.

So when Frito-Lay set its sights on Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pringles in 2003, many predicted history would repeat. But Pringles' house has proved to be built of tougher stuff. In the eight weeks ended Sept. 4, Pringles share was at 11.2%, tracking ahead of 2004 so far this year.

Leading the successful defense has been Chris Hood, 43, a former Boston chef who's marketing director for Pringles and has helped whip up an unusual stew of initiatives.

Pringles used a Nike-esque TV ad from WPP Group's Grey Global Group, New York, behind a Fiery Hot line extension to Pringles Prints. It launched 100-calorie packs for the weight conscious. And it launched a proprietary technology that prints on the Pringles crisps such things as Trivial Pursuit questions, images from the movie "The Incredibles," and even Donald Trump's face for a placement on NBC's "The Apprentice."

"We believe the upside potential on that printing platform is huge," Mr. Hood says, "because it offers consumers an entirely new way to engage with the snack."

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