Nicole Portwood still remembers a phone call she made several years ago to lobby a music festival to accept the vodka brand as a sponsor. "I got the cold shoulder," says Tito's VP of brand marketing. "I can't tell you how many people hung up on me because they didn't have any idea who we were."
They do now. Tito's, founded in 1997 under the then-ridiculous proposition of a Texas-distilled "handmade vodka," this year became the top-selling spirits variety in U.S. stores, surpassing more established players like Jack Daniel's Black Label and Smirnoff Red Label. Once only available in Texas, Tito's is now sold everywhere from United Airlines flights to big restaurant chains like McCormick & Schmick's, which recently featured a "Mexitini" cocktail made from Tito's and triple sec. At U.S. retail stores, sales surged 40.8 percent to $198 million in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 5, according to IRI data cited by Wine & Spirits Daily. In bars and restaurants, Tito's now commands an impressive 7.1 percent share of the fragmented vodka market, up from 1 percent in 2011, according to Technomic.
The ad is hard to forget: An ostrich wanted so badly to fly, but weak pectoral muscles and tiny wings kept him earthbound. That is, until he discovered a Samsung Gear VR headset and was able to simulate flight through virtual reality, soaring through the clouds to the strains of Elton John's "Rocket Man."
The protagonist of one of marketing's biggest comeback stories of 2017 is an Italian plumber with a mustache.
Panera Bread's annual marketing budget hovers around $100 million, yet the brand outshines the giants with a simple proposition: When you eat at Panera, you know exactly what you're getting.
Hulu emerged from the shadow of Netflix and Amazon this year thanks to the dystopian drama "The Handmaid's Tale." The adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name is the first Hulu original series to garner critical acclaim and become part of the cultural zeitgeist—with the help of some smart marketing and good timing.
"We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story."
In Amazon's holiday ad this year, hundreds of brown boxes—to the tune of Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit"—sing their way to gifting destinations, braving conveyor belts, mopeds and freight jets to deliver joy to consumers. The campaign, says Amazon, which was created with London-based Lucky Generals, was prompted by customers themselves.
Missing children posters and red balloons tied to sewer grates were just the beginning of the massive marketing effort behind "It," the movie released in September based on Stephen King's 1986 horror novel.
There was a time when an endorsement from the president of the United States came with some gravitas. So, this past January, when former president Barack Obama—who famously organized Spotify playlists on themes like summer and workouts—quipped that he was still waiting for his job at the music streaming service, the company kept the bit going. Spotify posted a job listing for the title of "President of Playlists," requiring a candidate with a Nobel Peace Prize and "experience in programming playlists at a federal level."
Let's get one thing out of the way: It doesn't taste like Ben & Jerry's, Häagen-Dazs or many other premium ice creams. But Halo Top, powered by consistent social media outreach, word-of-mouth and giveaways, has had a stellar year, and even became the bestselling ice cream brand in the U.S. for the four weeks ended Sept. 10. High-protein Halo Top carries a fraction of leading brands' calories and fat, and has established itself as a relatively guilt-free indulgence for those willing to shell out a little more than they would for Ben & Jerry's, as it sells at an average premium price of just under $5 per pint.