"You try and give them a unique perspective on a product and let them take it on their own terms," says Mr. Larson, brand initiative director for Nike's stretchable Presto sneaker.
Mr. Larson joined Nike in 1993, following stints at Reebok International and Wilson Sporting Goods Co. Leaping from marketing director of Nike Germany, Mr. Larson, 44, has been with Presto for about two and a half years.
Mr. Larson and his marketing team pushed Presto by enticing teens to help launch the slip-on shoe on their own terms. Now Prestos-available in multiple colors and sized like T-shirts in small, medium and large-have become cultish fashion accessories.
Whether Presto is worn as athletic footwear or as a fashion statement, the attraction to the brand is the self-expression it enables.
"Snap your fingers and Presto changes to whatever you want it to be," says Mr. Larson.
For its $50 million campaign, the emphasis was on color and instant, individualized happiness. Presto hype was spurred by girl-targeted sticker inserts in Primedia's Seventeen, direct mail postcards aimed at teen boys, TV ads by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and interactive e-mail, all featuring hip animated characters.
In May 2000, a month before Presto appeared in stores, New York's Katzen-Stein Gallery displayed 182 Presto shoes, presenting them as an art form and inspiring word-of-mouth. By this summer, shipments of Presto had rocketed to several million, up from around 250,000 a year ago.