Code Red: Cie Nicholson

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The development of Mountain Dew's Code Red line extension moved almost as quickly as the computer virus named after it.

Nine months after PepsiCo's Pepsi-Cola Co. started noodling overa cherry-color extension in July 2000, it was on shelves-short of the typical two-year test period. Sales followed suit. Last June and July, Code Red sold 3.6 million cases and boosted the Mountain Dew franchise by 26%, according to Beverage Digest. Sales are more than quadruple Pepsi estimates.

"Every time I guess on a [sales] number, I guess wrong," says Mountain Dew Marketing Director Cie Nicholson, who has held various titles within PepsiCo and before that worked for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

The concoction is riding two waves-Mountain Dew's popularity as well as an orientation toward flavored soft drinks. But Code Red's success is even more remarkable considering it was sold only in single-serve packages until this fall. The brand has done so well that TV advertising was pushed back to last week. Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, handles offline advertising, while Dallas shop Tribal DDB, a unit of Omnicom's DDB Worldwide, handles the interactive aspect.

"All indications are that it's here to stay," said Ms. Nicholson, 37. "The question is 'How high is up?' "

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