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Fast Company Issue Number 215. Copyright ©2017 by Mansueto Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved. Fast Company® is a registered trademark of Mansueto Ventures, LLC. Fast Company (ISSN 1085-9241) is published monthly except
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After months of buildup, Microsoft gathered
thousands of journalists and employees—along
with luminaries like Jay Leno—to reveal its
What happened: People lined up to buy it,
making Windows 95 one of the first computing
products to have a true pop-culture moment.
Pfizer spent a reported $100 million to stoke
demand for its breakthrough erectile dysfunction
remedy, tapping Cline Davis & Mann to make
crafty ads that targeted both men and women.
What happened: Frisky baby boomers snapped
up $1 billion worth of the blockbuster drug in
its first year.
The Lance Armstrong Foundation’s youth cancer
awareness initiative quietly enlisted celebrities
such as Tom Hanks and Serena Williams to wear
its yellow silicone bracelet, inspiring curiosity and
letting people discover it for themselves.
What happened: The foundation has raised $100
million worldwide from the Livestrong campaign.
Gluttons in Omaha and Providence helped KFC’s
test of a bacon-and-cheese sandwich—with pieces
of boneless fried chicken replacing the bread!—go
viral. KFC was coy about a national rollout and even
teased, “It’s Real!” on April Fools’ Day.
What happened: It did finally hit stores nationwide, but drove more outrage than sales.
Snapchatters couldn’t buy these camera glasses
in stores; they were initially only available via
pop-up vending machines. Scarcity and desirability created an organic sensation.
What happened: By eschewing the hoopla
of the failed Google Glass launch, Snap inspired
excitement rather than skepticism.
The Reynolds International Pen Company introduced the first commercial ballpoint pen with
much fanfare at New York’s Gimbels department
store, which promoted it as “miraculous.”
What happened: Big lines and a “no-holds-barred
fracas,” according to one report at the time.
An early example of masterful buzz-building.
When Ford debuted this mid-priced car line, it
tapped into the era’s most advanced marketing
muscle, amping up expectations with teaser ads
and a TV special called The Edsel Show.
What happened: Edsels turned out to basically
be souped-up Mercuries, and disappointed consumers dismissed the overhyped brand.
The product marketed itself; all Kodak had to
do was tell customers, “Now, in the time it takes
to read this sentence aloud, you can load the
new Kodak Instamatic Camera.”
What happened: Kodak sold more than 50 million Instamatics by 1970 and created a generation
of camera enthusiasts.
Sony showed off its personal cassette player with
a goofy campaign in the streets of Tokyo, which
involved demonstrating things that people could
do while listening to a Walkman (such as riding a
tandem bicycle) as the press watched.
What happened: Onlookers were baffled, but
music fans bought more than 200 million units.
A bow-tie-clad Steve Jobs introduced his bold
Macintosh computer—as well as his soon-to-be-famous penchant for dramatic demo events—at
a raucous shareholder conference.
What happened: Mac didn’t topple IBM, but
Jobs’s bravura presentation style paid off when
he debuted the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
KFC Double Down
From pen-based pandemonium
to viral fried chicken, these
debuts had serious impact.
By David Lidsky
Illustration by Peter Oumanski