Monday, November 23, 2009

MTN Dew: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

MTN DewIt's no secret that the carbonated soft-drink category has been reeling, from the economy and from increased competition from other beverage categories and consumers' shifting preferences. But that hasn't slowed down Mtn Dew, which had volume growth of 1% in the first half, as the overall category declined by 2.7%, according to Beverage Digest.

"It's rooted in the fact that Mtn Dew has always remained true to itself," said Frank Cooper, chief marketing officer-sparkling beverages. "Rewind 10 or 15 years and the spin was always that it was a great niche brand. And as a niche brand, people never thought it would have an impact on the broader portfolio or on the CSD space. ... Niche ideas are now the primary drivers of culture today."

Although PepsiCo is a mass-marketing machine and Mtn Dew is the country's fourth-largest soft-drink brand, it continues to speak directly to its core consumers. Case in point, the brand is currently in the process of opening up an agency review (to consumers) for its three new Dewmocracy products. 

Agencies, film companies and individuals are submitting their marketing ideas, and consumers will ultimately select the agencies that produce the spots. The brand has also been focused on its Green Label platform, which involves music, art and entertainment and promotes emerging artists.

"The best way to grow Mtn Dew was not to speak to a broader set of consumers but to speak authentically to the people that love Mtn Dew," said Mr. Cooper.

Mtn Dew is well past having an awareness problem, even among older consumers. The brand has been attracting boomers and Generation X with Throwback and Diet Dew, Mr. Cooper said. Throwback, a limited-edition version of Mtn Dew sweetened with natural sugar and sporting a retro design, proved so popular that it's coming back for another run. Diet Dew, meanwhile, has enjoyed four consecutive years of growth, as regular Dew consumers have traded to diet.

'The Lost Symbol': an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

'The Lost Symbol'
Get readers the internet over to decode clues and puzzles surrounding the latest from Dan Brown since "The Da Vinci Code," but meanwhile, lock up the first run of the novel so tightly that no one but Matt Lauer can get their hands on an advance copy.

That was the formula for stirring up mass intrigue around the release of "The Lost Symbol" this fall and, eventually, for selling 3.5 million copies a mere five weeks after launch.

With 81 million copies of Mr. Brown's first smash hit "The Da Vinci Code" sold worldwide and two films starring Tom Hanks based on his books, it's fair to say that "The Lost Symbol" was a highly anticipated release, especially since it's four years late. The task for publishing house Knopf Doubleday was to remind readers why they loved Dan Brown when they first read him in 2003.

"Part of the strategy was a big online push and to reacquaint readers with the fun of Dan Brown," said Suzanne Herz, the publicist and director of marketing for the title.

To push the publisher's first print of 5 million copies -- a record for parent Random House -- Doubleday tapped New York-based interactive agency Special Ops Media to recreate Dan Brown's world of codes and mysteries in a multi-property puzzle and decoder game online.

Not among the select few allowed to read the book, Special Ops had to build the world of trivia and puzzle games with only Mr. Brown's previous books for reference. Riddles, word games and symbol-decoding tasks were released on Twitter, Facebook and "Lost Symbol's" website, and they were also pushed to booksellers' web properties. Barnes & Noble and Borders posted puzzles on their own sites and drove readers to answer them on Dan Brown's Facebook page. This effort relied heavily on social-media platforms and earned Mr. Brown more than 100,000 friends on Facebook and almost 5,000 followers on Twitter.

"When 'The Da Vinci Code' came out, Facebook and Twitter were not part of the landscape," Ms. Herz said. "So this time, we had brand new avenues."

While readers were scrambling to piece together clues about the upcoming release, Doubleday fed hype about how highly guarded "Lost Symbol" copies were up until launch. Weeks before, Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos posted a note on the e-tailer's homepage about "Lost Symbol," what he called "one of the most anticipated publishing events of all time."

"We've agreed to keep our stockpile under 24-hour guard in its own chain-link enclosure, with two locks requiring two separate people for entry," Mr. Bezos wrote.

The "Today Show's" Matt Lauer was given an advance copy, and for one week Mr. Lauer reported from locations in the book. Ms. Herz speculates that the NBC package, which also included Mr. Lauer interviewing Mr. Brown one month after launch, was probably the most airtime a novel has ever received on TV.