But for every starry-eyed student, there's a professor who swears there's nothing new under the sun. For every enthusiastic brand manager, there's a senior VP whose mantra is: "We tried that before." And, indeed, even longtime marketing veterans might never get the chance to be our generation's Clarence Birdseye or J.K. Kellogg.
To every one of those jaded professors and world-weary executives, Advertising Age editors and consultancy The Everest Group offer their list of the 10 Most Powerful and Innovative Ideas from our 1,000-member roster of Marketing 100s. It's hard not to get a tingle down the spine when looking at this list.
These are the products that have become habits. Or, in some cases, they are the unforgettable shooting stars that burned bright and captured our imagination for a season. They are the elite among our elite.
America Online. Back in 1994, Steve Case oversaw a community that brought personality to the cold computer screen. Built on alliances and strong word-of-mouth, AOL, of all the online services, made all the right decisions along the way from its origins in 1985. Now a media giant after its merger with Time Warner, AOL is best positioned to provide multimedia ad options to its client roster (AA, July 4, '94).
"The Blair Witch Project." The explosion of the Internet and viral marketing, coinciding with Artisan Entertainment's careful cultivation of information about "The Blair Witch Project," was a match made for Hollywood dreams. "We knew we had a monster on our hands," said Artisan marketing chief Emirate Jones about the film. Purchased by Artisan for $1.1 million, it had worldwide box-office numbers topping $250 million and is a model for developing buzz (AA, June 26, '00).
"Cows on Parade." If there's ever been a promotion like this, we have yet to witness it. It began with the City of Chicago's $1.5 million investment and a volunteer sales force that built a massive sponsorship effort. It resulted in 2 million tourists attracted by word-of-mouth and visitor spending of more than $200 million to see 300 whimsical fiberglass cows (AA, June 26, '00).
Intel. How do you turn a commodity product like a computer chip into a must-have purchase? Intel positioned its chips "as the computer inside" and thus helped the Dennis Carter-led marketing take a bit of the mystery out of what makes the PC work (AA, July 6, '92).
Michael Jordan. The Marketing 1000 decade produced the only living, breathing marketing machine, an NBA star from North Carolina who has been generating revenues larger than the gross national product of some small countries. David Falk, his handler and chairman of SFX Sports Group, orchestrated multimillion-dollar deals with blue-chippers like Gatorade and Nike on the strength of an infectious smile and the urging to "Be like Mike" (AA, June 28, '99). The only question left: Can a return to the NBA trigger a ratings' rebound?
Miata. Nostalgia steeped in Americana created a brand message that brought fame to Mazda Miata and marketing chief Jan Thompson. The model created a baby boomer market for the ragtop, once banished from American assembly lines. Miata lured dozens of car marques back into the convertible business (AA, July 6, '92).
Nascar. With a blue-chip roster of marketing partners and network TV support, the one-time good ol' boy sport now rivals the NBA and MLB in terms of viewership. "I think we met our goal of reaching race fans 365 days a year through all points of sales," said VP-Marketing George Pyne (AA, June 29, '98).
Starbucks. Scott Bedbury left Nike to lead marketing at Starbucks in 1995. Through rapid expansion the chain has become a daily ritual for many consumers (AA, June 30, '97).
Viagra. The DTC Rx drug ad phenomenon broke out in the last few years, but few outside Pfizer imagined the sales juggernaut would wipe out the snickering. Viagra hit sales of nearly $800 million in its first nine months (AA, June 28, '99).
Windows from Microsoft. The computer giant won the fight for computer operating systems with its "Windows Ready-to-Run" marketing, then led by Jonathan Lazarus. Game, set, marketing muscle takes the match (AA, July 6, '92).