Hits & misses
(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- [HIT] Round numbers. If you're looking for good product placement, how can you beat a four-week event watched by a billion people worldwide? Easy--by having your product be the thing all 2 billion eyes are glued to. That explains the smiles at Adidas, whose $50 million-plus World Cup sponsorship included the use of its Teamgeist ball. Made from 14 polyurethane panels fused by a thermal process, instead of the usual quiltwork of 32 pentagons and hexagons, the new ball is rounder and, the company claims, reacts to kicks with greater accuracy. Adidas says Teamgeist sales will top 15 million units in 2006, making it the best-selling ball of all time and helping to boost Adidas's soccer-gear sales by 30 percent to $1.5 billion.
[HIT] Gen Y-aris. As if Toyota still needed to prove its knack for debuting the right car at the right time in the right way, it seems to have done it again. With gas prices soaring and the 18-to-34 crowd looking for hip wheels, Toyota unveiled both the 37-mpg Yaris and a marketing campaign perfectly targeted to the digital generation. The push started months before the car hit showrooms, with Toyota paying to have the car written into sketches on the Fox comedy show MadTV. Then came a make-your-own-ad contest on Current TV and 26 two-minute "mobisodes" of the Fox drama Prison Break available for download on Sprint cell phones. After two months on the market, the Yaris was already outselling notable gas guzzlers like Ford's Expedition and GM's Hummer.
[HIT] Boo 2.0. When it comes to online haute couture, it's hard to shake the memory of Boo.com, which blew through $135 million in VC funding and landed the top spot in this magazine's first-ever "101 Dumbest Moments in Business." But perhaps, like so many Web 1.0 outfits, it was just ahead of its time. Net-a-Porter.com, launched by U.K. fashion editor Natalie Massenet for 1 percent of Boo's working capital, is proving that high fashion can be profitably sold online. The site offers items from 120 top designers, such as a suede-lined, limited-edition leather tote from Bottega Veneta ($3,850) and Roberto Cavalli's asymmetrical silk halter dress ($13,135). The privately held company claims that its average transaction is a hefty $700 and says it's solidly in the black on annual sales of nearly $40 million.
[MISS] Airbust. News of production delays on Airbus's A380 superjumbo jet has grabbed all the headlines--but it turns out that the European consortium's real superjumbo problem is the A350, meant to compete with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in the far more important midsize market. While Boeing has rung up about 400 orders for the fuel-efficient 787, plans for the A350 were so thoroughly skewered by key customers that Airbus may take it back to the drawing board. Erstwhile satisfied customer Singapore Airlines, which will be the first carrier to fly the A380, not only demanded compensation for the delays with the larger planes but also announced plans to purchase 20 787s from Boeing.
[HIT] Smooth move. Philips's Norelco brand became a household name by focusing on what guys know they have to shave: their faces. Yet that left an untapped market--shavers for places you didn't know you should shave. Enter the Norelco Bodygroom and, with it, one of the most brilliantly infectious viral-marketing campaigns in recent memory: At shaveeverywhere.com, a robe-clad "innuendo man" illustrates his frank pitch with suggestive fruits and vegetables. An on-air plug by Howard Stern got the ball rolling; features like the site's "lonely hairy man" music video ("It's so hard to be a Don Juan when you've got a chinchilla wrapped around your [bleep]") ensured guys would pass the word along. Within eight weeks the site had drawn 1.4 million unique visitors, and the Bodygroom had reached the top of Amazon's health and personal care category. "We thought this would be a slow-burn thing," says brand manager Zdenek Kratky, perhaps a bit indelicately. "But our target consumers have jumped on it."To send a letter to the editor about this story, click here.