From iPod to 'Lord of the Rings'

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Updated in 2003, the beautifully appointed iPod spawned a white wire cult among the cognoscenti with a category leading 20-plus percent market share. Sales were boosted with the launch of Apple's companion iTunes Music Store, with 25 million songs sold in seven months. In 2004, competition proliferates from cheaper and not-so-bad-looking Microsoft compatible players such as the Rio Karma. But the original sleek white iPod remains tops with us for its ingenious design.
As the only competitor to make Gillette flinch in well over a decade, Schick's four-bladed razor has helped send retail sales in razors and blades for the company up 90% from year ago, added nearly 7 points to its market share and prompted three lawsuits. Repeat purchase in 2004 will be crucial. But either way, it appears Schick has permanently changed the game in razors for the first time in a generation to one of cutthroat competition as it transforms from follower to challenger.
This, at least from a retail marketing standpoint, has got to be one of the best-executed launches we've seen. The in-store buzz was incredible, with dummy boxes of the product on shelf weeks before the launch and huge spending behind teaser ads for the pill formerly known as purple. The fact that P&G got its wrist slapped over remarkably aggressive ad copy didn't stop it from jumping out to a 20-plus share in just weeks.
McDonald's had a good year in the U.S. with its premium salads launch, but it was in introducing a health-focused line around salads, yogurt and veggie burgers in Australia that set up plans for a global rollout (and a global test) in 2004. Besides selling literally tons of salad mix, sales have stayed strong and haven't cannibalized other products, according to the company. And the fast-food giant has finally figured out that offering Moms something on menus will boost sales.
While sales for L'Oreal's line were ultimately edged out by Unilever's Dove, Fructis performance boosted L'Oreal's overall share 2 points, while Unilever's hair share has been flat to down. Fructis is also attracting a younger, hipper, multi-ethnic crowd. Both Dove and Fructis aspire to be 8-share brands eventually, and are only about halfway there. But as rival A.G. Lafley, chairman-CEO of P&G, recently said, they've made for the most competitive hair-care category in three decades.
Until Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline's Levitra hit the market in August, Pfizer's Viagra had the erectile dysfunction category all but zipped up. A $100 million ad blitz (by WPP's Quantum Group) trumpeted Levitra's claim that it works quicker than Viagra. The drug also got a lift from a National Football League tie-in and pep talk campaign with former coach Mike Ditka to reach the 80 million men who suffer from ED but don't see a doctor.
When Toyota Motor Sales USA's luxury mid-size sport utility vehicle went on sale in November 2002, it was too early to tell how well it would do and whether it would cannibalize sales of the brand's two other SUVs. It hasn't. Lexus has sold 27,595 GX 470 models through November 2003, putting it in the No. 2 spot, but without eating into sales of the smaller RX, up 26.9% for the same period.
While Match.com may have attracted more buzz in 2002, online dating lost its stigma in 2003. Just about every independent Web site began running front-page personals. The granddaddy of 'em all, though, is Match.com, which capitalized on the boom offering everything from wireless dating with Match Mobile to travel and events. Launched in 1995, Match.com claims it has been party to 89,000 hook-ups.
Coca-Cola re-established the hipness of the flagging Sprite brand with a smart PR-driven launch for its tropically-flavored extension. Backed with a Memorial Day launch infused with rule-breaking hip-hop icons and a 50-city sampling tour that included a remix recording studio, the line helped boost trademark Sprite by 7% through November. Sprite could use the boost, since Pepsi-Cola's Sierra Mist has gained ground in the lemon-lime category since its launch.
At a time when Hollywood studios are all abluster with talk of creating franchises, mini-major New Line did it. The Peter Jackson-directed movies were somewhat typecast before they opened as over-35-year-old-male comic book geek magnets. But it turned out to have universal appeal. The first two movies pulled in $650 million domestically, more than $1 billion worldwide. DVD sales are through the roof, and the third film opened Dec. 17.
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