Hits & Misses
By Elizabeth Esfahani

(Business 2.0) – [HIT] Geezer Aid. The Live 8 charity concerts held around the world on July 2 were an unqualified success, bringing out more than a million people to support the fight against poverty in Africa. But there ended up being some unexpected beneficiaries too: Several of the has-been rockers who took the stage saw sales of their CDs rocket. According to British music retailer HMV, sales of Pink Floyd albums soared 1,343 percent; the Who, 863 percent; and Annie Lennox, 500 percent. The Paul McCartney/U2 duet of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," meanwhile, became the fastest-selling download in history, shooting to the No. 1 slot at iTunes within hours of the performance.

[HIT] The cream rises. It's not often that a moisturizer sets off a stampede. But it happened this summer, as millions of pasty Americans scrambled to get hold of Jergens's Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer--a $5.99 skin cream that acts as a gradual self-tanner. Though the item launched in March with little fanfare, demand spiked three months later thanks to a dab of advertising and a healthy dollop of early-adopter buzz. Jergens quickly ramped up production, and Natural Glow is now expected to surpass $50 million in sales this year, making it the market's top-selling skin cream and the most successful launch in the company's 123-year history.

[MISS] Not so friendly after all. Drivers in Kentucky weren't supposed to get a new license plate design for another three years. But in July, state officials announced they will spend $3.5 million this year to initiate an early phaseout of the current "Mr. Smiley" logo. Apparently the cutesy sunshine design and "Kentucky: It's That Friendly" tagline aren't sitting well with the stuck-in-traffic masses. Residents covered Mr. Smiley with duct tape, drew mustaches on him, and ordered non-Smiley specialty plates in record numbers. The new tags--featuring an outline of Kentucky with the catchphrase "Unbridled Spirit"--are already being given to new-car buyers and will start replacing existing Mr. Smileys early next year.

[HIT] Going, going ... gone? What at first seemed like a strikeout for Major League Baseball now looks like a home run. In 2002 the league bought the struggling Montreal Expos franchise for $120 million and, in dragging its heels in finding the franchise a new home, reportedly managed to rack up more than $60 million in operating losses. But thanks to the club's successful relocation to Washington, D.C, MLB finally has a hot property on its hands--not only on the field but at the concession stands, where the team now ranks among the league leaders in merchandise sales. With eight serious bidders (including billionaire George Soros) angling for control, insiders say MLB could soon sell the team for as much as $450 million.

[HIT] A Wonderous turnaround. Just one year ago, things looked bleak for Interstate Bakeries: The maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake of a $25.7 million loss in fiscal 2004. But rather than clutching its chest and keeling over like so many snack-cake devotees, the company got itself into shape, posting a revenue increase of 7 percent and cutting its net loss by 82 percent since the reorganization. Analysts attribute Interstate's comeback to two long-overdue moves: It acknowledged modern-day health-consciousness by launching a whole-grain version of Wonder, and reached out to a new generation of junk-food junkies by redesigning the packaging of Twinkies, Ho Hos, and Ding Dongs--the brands' first major makeover in 25 years.

[MISS] Getting punked. Want to lose your street cred in a hurry? Just copy an iconic album cover and use it to hawk your wares. Nike enraged skate punks and punk rockers alike in July with a poster for its skateboarding tour (far right) that was nearly identical to the cover of punk band Minor Threat's self-titled debut record. As a result of the ensuing furor, Nike pulled the ads and issued an apology to the band and its former label, Dischord Records, conceding it made "a poor judgment call." On top of the blow to Nike Skateboarding's hard-earned underground image, Dischord now says it's considering legal action.