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If an Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar hasn't yet opened in your neck of the woods, chances are one is coming.

The $300 million casual-dining chain plans to open almost three new restaurants near almost every big or medium-sized neighborhood in 44 states. At this rate, the chain's present 700-plus restaurants could double by the end of this decade.

Combine convenient locations with a variety of food, such as fajitas, pasta and stir-fry on the same menu, and average guest checks under $8.50 per person, and it's what one observer calls "the fast-food concept of the '90s."

That label is fine with Robert Martin, 65, exec VP-marketing at Applebee's International.

"I really can't say it's been any one thing that has made Applebee's a success," says Mr. Martin. "It's what psychologists call gestalt, that the sum is greater than the total of the parts."

Food quality and presentation are the centerpieces of the chain's ongoing ad campaign from Wyse Advertising, Cleveland, themed "America's favorite neighbor." The chain spends more than $15 million annually on advertising, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The strategy is to focus on a food-specific theme. The spring ad flight focused on "Pasta Americana," a slew of new pasta dishes, and the summer theme will focus on, naturally, "Summer Fare.'

"My view is what we've got is a nifty package," says Mr. Martin. "And showing the food the way it comes out of our kitchens is our best advertising."

By Laurie Freeman


Executives at L.L. Bean uncovered an ironic research finding: The outdoor clothing catalog's best source for new customers was the Internet.

"The customer base is a perfect fit for our target," says Christoper McCormick, senior VP-advertising and direct marketing, and the spearhead behind the September 1995 launch of L.L. Bean's Web site (http://www.llbean.com).

"The Internet attracts younger and active males. Users like the outdoors-kayaking, fishing-and that is a great market for us," he adds.

L.L. Bean is now building critical mass on the Web site, developed with Strategic Interactive Group. The Web site gives the customer a better presentation of L.L. Bean's product line, while communicating Bean's strong brand image by explaining the company's history and philosophy.

The site also acts as a way to circumvent rising costs for paper and postage, says Mr. McCormick, 40. In addition, by eschewing paper, the online site also coincides with L.L. Bean's environmental concerns.

New-media sales are expected to grow to 5% of total company sales within three years, he says (sales totaled more than $1 billion in 1995). The marketer has scrapped its CD-ROM catalog.

In the future, visitors to the site can look forward to downloadable video and audio. Also, starting in September, the marketer will accept orders placed online, through IBM Corp.'s Net.Commerce, a secure-transaction methodology. Bean is the first retailer to sign on.

"It is a strategic priority for the company; we are investing heavily in it. There will be a gradual move more toward the new media channel and away from the printed catalog," he says.

By Laura Loro


Designer ralph lauren's Polo Sport fashion collection was inspired by the designer's America's Cup uniforms in 1991 and a belief that fitness is the true fashion of the '90s. In early 1994, Cosmair's Ralph Lauren fragrance division joined the party with a men's fragrance/grooming line, Ralph Lauren Polo Sport.

Under the direction of Senior VP-Marketing Camille McDonald, the line is pushing toward an estimated $80 million in retail sales this year, vying for the No. 1 spot in department stores against Calvin Klein's Eternity for Men.

Polo Sport, with its amplification of the original Polo casual label into authentic athleticism, begged "us to capitalize on that with not just a fragrance but a world of physical well being," says Ms. McDonald, 42.

Cosmair spent $20 million on the launch, timed between the opening of the Madison Avenue Polo Sport store in New York and the Winter Olympics. Advertising from Carlson & Partners, New York, celebrated heroic athleticism.

The line extended to skin fitness because, she says, "we felt if we were going to have credibility as a lifestyle line, we had to sell more than fragrance."

Ms. McDonald added what is department stores' best-selling facial moisturizer for men: the non-fragranced Face Fitness SPF 8 with alpha hydroxy acid. The key to making this product a success, she explains, was a 2 oz. sample through magazines via bounce-back cards that sent consumers to stores.

"Whereas the normal men's line does 90% of its business in fragrance and 10% in ancillary products, ours does 60% in fragrance," says Ms. McDonald. Those results spawned Ralph Lauren Polo Sport Woman this past February and expected to generate another $50 million in retail sales this year."

By Pat Sloan


When Jim McDowell and executives at BMW of North America set out to find a theme for the marketing of their newest "ultimate driving machine," one name stood out above the rest.

Bond. James Bond.

To launch the Z3 roadster, a two-seat convertible marketed at the luxury/performance car segment, VP-Marketing Mr. McDowell and his team searched for what would solidify and emphasize BMW's image while introducing the brand to a new audience of consumers. They settled on MGM/United Artists' "GoldenEye," the Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan as agent 007, the spy with a penchant for fast cars.

"This is such a fantastic product that it deserved more than a traditional launch," says Mr. McDowell, 42.

In the movie, released in November, the Z3 roadster replaced the Aston Martin as the new Bond car. A media blitz began with the Z3 appearing in "GoldenEye" trailers and two BMW TV spots, from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, using film footage.

Dealers were sent "BMW 007 kits" and their customers were given an opportunity to preview both the movie and the car before either were released.

The result: BMW has shaken, not just stirred, the auto industry with unprecedented media exposure and awareness for the Z3, and BMW in the U.S. More than 16 million Americans saw the Z3 roadster on the big screen within the first four weeks of the movie's opening, and 100 Z3s sold out in two days after NBC's "Today Show" publicized the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog featuring the limited-edition model.

By the end of 1995, BMW dealer floor traffic had increased and more than 9,000 Z3s had been pre-ordered, exceeding a target of 5,000.

"Our hope was to establish the Z3 as an icon in the American cultural landscape," he says. "' GoldenEye' created all the excitement and the car did the rest."

By Jon Rappoport


For Frederick Miller, sealing the lead in a segment his company virtually created means "running as fast we can."

The 46-year-old VP-marketing for Thompson's Co. says it takes a three-pronged approach to marketing the trademark Thompson's Water Seal product: "careful focus against our end consumer; strong investments in our advertising; and product innovation."

It seems to be working: The 15-year-old product holds a 57.4% share of the exterior cleaning and waterproofing market, according to company figures, a share that's continued to grow despite competitive pressures.

Current advertising, from Slater Hanft Martin, New York, features boxer George Foreman and carries the tagline, "Hit the deck with the heavyweights," a break from the company's longstanding comparative campaigns.

Media spending in 1995 was $9.6 million, all of it in television. Over the last few years, the company has been busy leveraging Water Seal's considerable brand equity into line extensions. In 1995, the company rolled out Deck Finish; this year has brought a line of seven products for concrete care and testing pretreated lumber.

"One of the things we have done strategically is to add new products, to in some ways complete our product line," says Mr. Miller, who's been with Thompson's for 10 years. He joined the company after stints at General Electric and General Foods.

"We are never satisfied," he says. "If you stand still, you are actually going backwards because the competition will catch up."

By William Spain


Even though consumers originally disliked the name, Taylor Made's Burner Bubbles have been flying off the racks at golf shops.

In development for more than five years, Taylor Made sold about $18 million worth of Burner Bubbles within a year. Executives at Taylor Made Golf Co. estimate more than 1 million golfers are playing with new Burner Bubble irons (retailing at $900 a set) and woods (retail at $300 apiece).

As part of its strategy, Taylor Made introduced the Burner Bubble to the Professional Golfer's Association Tour about eight months prior to its consumer launch in late 1994. A handful of golf pros, including Mark O'Meara and Lee Janzen, currently use the clubs.

"We wanted to make the club very visible during tournament coverage," says George Montgomery, Taylor Made's VP-marketing. "We chose the Bubbles' copper color to make the club recognizable on TV and in the stores."

Similarly, the name Burner Bubble-despite consumers' claims that bubbles always burst-was chosen because of its memorability and high recall rates.

"It's all about visibility," says Mr. Montgomery, who's an avid golfer himself.

Mr. Montgomery also launched an estimated $30 million TV and print campaign, from Bozell/Salvati Montgomery Sakoda, Costa Mesa, Calif. While Taylor Made had typically used 65% of its ad budget for print and 35% for TV, the marketer put 60% of its budget in TV to launch the Bubbles.

Taylor Made also created an infomercial and a site on the Internet's World Wide Web (http://www.taylormade.com) to help tell the story behind the Bubble technology.

Next on the tee: stepping up the marketing of the "Champagne Burner Bubble" targeted to lady linksters. About 87% of Burner Bubble users are men.


Baked tostitos, a $100 million-plus winner for Frito-Lay, almost didn't happen.

Parent brand Tostitos, hit by poor sales, was nearly discontinued in 1989. The base brand was saved by the arrival of Restaurant Style Tostitos in 1990, a strategy so successful that Frito started to look at other line extensions.

By 1994, Frito had isolated its target: Better-for-you tortilla chips. The company turned to Mike Munro, now a 30-year-old product manager.

"There was an emerging consumer desire for better-for-you products that was relatively underdeveloped in the salty snack aisle," recalls Mr. Munro, who noted "no one was making a great-tasting chip."

Frito went to work developing a chip-it was tested and tweaked before it rolled out in August 1994. There was no initial ad support at rollout.

"We hit capacity problems almost right away," says Mr. Munro.

The long-awaited campaign from BBDO Worldwide, New York, broke in fall '94 and featured Tostitos spokesman Chris Elliott in a museum, using the parent brand's themeline, "You got Tostitos, you got a party."

Spending came from Tostitos' $20 million budget, and Baked Tostitos had a high-profile role in the parent brand's sponsorship of the 1995 Fiesta Bowl.

The result was a $134.5 million brand, according to Information Resources Inc., for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 25, 1996, commanding an 8.6% share of the $1.6 billion tortilla chip market.

By Judann Pollack


Tom Murdough, who spent two decades building the toy company Little Tikes, literally took things a step further when he left to form Step2 Corp. in 1991.

Applying the rotational plastic molding process he knew so well from making Little Tikes' kid-sized yard toys, he created a line of popular plastic yard and garden equipment for adults.

Along the way, he returned to making plastic kids' toys "in softer colors and with new functions and wider price points," with luxury items like Step2's $400 Welcome Home playhouse for kids and 26 new items under $20 each.

In less than five years, Step2 has become Little Tikes' biggest rival in the estimated $250 million-to-$300 million market for yard toys, reaching 25% market share this year. Sales zoomed from $21 million in 1992 to $85 million last year.

"Ideas are our most important asset," says Mr. Murdough, the company's president. "And we get them from two places: our employees and our customers."

He explains that 10 employees handle a toll-free customer hotline to learn more about what's right and wrong about products. Advertising, handled in-house, consists of print ads in parents' magazines.

Toys now outnumber yard products, but Step2's Yard Hopper wheeled garden chair remains a perennial best-seller.

"We share our success with annual bonuses to our 1,100 employees and we involve them very much in the development process. They're the reason for our success," he says.

By Kate Fitzgerald


Life was good on the home front, but David Murphy craved the excitement of the singles scene. Single servings, that is.

"Ocean Spray had done an excellent job in penetrating the at-home market with its juice products through supermarket sales," says the 15-year veteran of the cranberry growers' co-op. "We needed to penetrate single-serve, cold-bottle channels like convenience stores."

Ocean Spray was unfamiliar with those channels, so Mr. Murphy, last year promoted to VP-marketing, decided to arrange an escort. Four years ago, Pepsi-Cola Co.'s bottling division started distributing Ocean Spray, which appointed Mr. Murphy to manage the arrangement. Since then, single-serve sales have grown more than 30% a year.

"We married a great brand, ours, with the best distribution system in the world, Pepsi's," Mr. Murphy says.

The new distribution helped Mr. Murphy reach a younger audience. Ad agency North Castle Partners, Stamford, Conn., helped communicate with them through the "Crave the Wave" campaign, energetically delivering bold, fruity images.

Since striking the Pepsi deal, Ocean Spray has introduced new flavors, such as Caribbean Colada and Mandarin Magic, to its lineup of cranberry and grapefruit drinks. But new products are nothing new for Ocean Spray, the first to put cranberry juice in a glass bottle.

By Mark Gleason<{P>


The odds of getting Pope John Paul II to contribute a laudatory blurb for the cover of a best-selling paperback are pretty slim. But not if the book is "Catechism of the Catholic Church," an 822-page tome that for the last year has sat side-by-side with the works of Mary Higgins Clark and Stephen King on drugstore and supermarket book racks and in wholesale stores such as Sam's Club.

For Trace Murphy, an editor at Doubleday division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, using a papal quote was among the easier challenges in marketing the mass-market ($7.99) edition of the first publication of a universal Roman Catholic catechism in more than 400 years. Doubleday was awarded rights to publish the catechism by the U.S. Council of Bishops.

"They liked our offer and were concerned that [a publisher] be respectful of the content and have a solid religious publishing program in place," says Mr. Murphy, 28.

One challenge he faced was how to combine dignity and cover impact, given that the book would be rubbing shoulders with blockbusters. The result: Raised gold type against a white background and a colorful 1/2-by-2 inch reproduction of a painting showing Jesus washing the disciples' feet.

Advertising for the book was primarily in the Catholic press and in Publishers Weekly. A direct mail campaign, targeted primarily to Catholic parishes, schools and universities, also was condcuted, with some 6,000 fliers distributed.

Currently, 750,000 copies of the catechism's mass market edition are in print, and Mr. Murphy says between 7,500 and 10,000 copies are being sold every month, a rate he expects to continue for "several years." Not bad for a volume that has a 15-page table of contents and a 65-page subject index.

By Robert Goldsborough

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