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It wasn't clever marketing that catapulted Dyson to No. 1 this year in the $2.2 billion vacuum category after less than three years, argues Clare Mullin, group marketing director at Dyson.

Ms. Mullin instead credits Stacey Silk, a buyer at Best Buy, who tested the vacuum in her own home and decided to give the U.K. brand a shot stateside. That was October 2002. Months later, retailers from Target to Home Depot to Sears scrambled to carry the trendy vacuum.

"That was the turning point, and so far that has been the toughest thing ... getting that one person to take that leap of faith," says Ms. Mullin. "Today we have an extremely simplistic marketing strategy ... that we have a product that works better."

Even so, Dyson is spending big. In fact, it doled out the biggest outlay in 2004, $49 million compared with Hoover's $47 million, mostly on spots featuring founder James Dyson.

"All I'm there to do is find ways to tell people why Dyson is different and better," says Ms. Mullin, 34, who has also served as communications director for Dyson.

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