The band, around since the `80s, wanted to attract a new audience-a 12-to-18-year-old audience-for its latest release, "All That You Can't Leave Behind" and build sales from that demographic to make the album a hit.
Enter Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Records and producer of earlier U2 albums. Mr. Iovine had one clear idea how to achieve the goal: make believe U2 was a new band-with absolutely no history.
"It was one of the rare times that you could actually feel a marketing plan in the record business," Mr. Iovine says.
U2 and Interscope had to do it different-ly-specifically, have a long-term plan-vs. the quick hits of other musical releases. "We realized that this was an 18-month plan," says Steve Berman, Interscope's senior executive of marketing and sales. "The key was how Jimmy set the tone for marketing."
That tone included a number of high-profile TV performances-including halftime at last month's Super Bowl, the National Basketball Association All-Star Game, "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and "Late Show With David Letterman."
Perhaps the key was Viacom's MTV. Not only would there be videos-four different ones-but U2 would do special appearances, such as a rooftop concert, a la the Beatles, during MTV's "Total Request Live."
Mr. Iovine "had a lot do with the band trying to shed their credibility fears," says Paul Kremen, head of brand marketing for Interscope. "It harder to take a band that's been around as long as U2 and make them relevant to 12-to-18-year-olds."
To target teens further, U2 also got involved with another Viacom unit, Paramount Pictures, by including the band's third single, "Elevation," in the soundtrack of the summer 2001 movie "Tomb Raider."
All efforts helped U2 sell a sizable 4 million records in the U.S. and 11 million worldwide. The band released four singles with the new album-"Beautiful Day," "Elevation," "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out" and "Walk On." Last month it won four Grammys as well.