Smart start

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It's easy to marvel at the publicity strategy that made inventor Dean Kamen's high-tech scooter, the Segway Human Transporter, the new product story of the moment. Marketers of more prosaic new products might envy his bonanza, but there are success stories to consider closer to the business world that they live in. Consider Listerine PocketPaks.

Good word-of-mouth is the Holy Grail for new product strategists. It can be nurtured but not bought. Great advertising, supported with adequate budgets, is one way-but surely not the only way-to get it. Listerine PocketPaks, from Pfizer, got its first major ad blitz this fall, but it already was riding favorable consumer buzz built on smart promotion, aggressive sampling efforts-and a truly innovative product.

Sampling and promotion made sense because Pfizer (Ad Age's marketer of the year) found an innovative way to deliver a familiar benefit-breath freshening. The dissolving PocketPaks strips were different enough to attract trial users, just as consumers were attracted to Philip Morris Cos.' Altoids mints when that brand's then-unusual packaging and "curiously strong" positioning were a novelty. Add Listerine's 100-year old brand identity-almost synonymous with mouthwash-to the PocketPaks name and the need for advertising to win initial trial receded.

Product launches are unpredictable, and usually expensive, no matter how much research and experience brand managers bring to the task. Credit the PocketPaks team for enlisting smart promotion and sampling to leverage an instantly recognizable brand name and prime the market. They gave their product a chance to speak for itself with consumers. That takes confidence. Now they can reap the rewards.

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