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Launched in 1986, Alize may have been ahead of its time. The low-proof cognac and passion fruit cordial was a category unto itself.

"There wasn't a frame of reference for us except we felt it tasted great," says Cathleen Burke, 39, VP-marketing for Kobrand Corp., who has worked on Alize since its inception. "It took us a while to find the right ground for it."

Persistence paid. The advent of new-age beverages and growing acceptance of exotic fruit flavors set the stage for mass acceptance. Kobrand ultimately identified women ages 21 to 35, particularly African-American women, as key consumer segments and targeted marketing accordingly.

Backed by a variety of promotions, sampling and Alize's first print advertising, from Mad Dogs & Englishmen, New York, sales exploded-up 46% to nearly 700,000 cases in 1998 after a 19% increase in 1997.

Though media spending may grow, promotions, such as a sweepstakes giveaway of a red Mazda Miata and on-bottle giveaways of lipsticks, remain important drivers

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