Top 10 Power Brands of 2005

Brands are the light, not the bulb. Here are our picks for those trademarks that have withstood the test of time and forged an emotional connection with consumers.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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One of four animated critters created to sell the product to kids, Tony edged out Katy the Kangaroo, Newt the Gnu and Elmo the Elephant to become the sole star of the cereal maker's ad efforts. Originally an orange cat with black stripes and a blue nose, he walked on all fours, but he has undergone extensive cosmetic changes over the decades. When America started heading for health clubs, Tony got a slimmer and more muscular physique and stood upright. In sync with his Baby Boomer following, Tony grew up, married Mama Tony, had a son Tony Jr. and daughter Antoinette, born appropriately in 1974, the Chinese year of the tiger. One thing that's remained constant for much of Tony's life is his voice, provided by the late Thurl Ravenscroft, who gave Tony his trademark growl: "They're grrrreat!"

Masterfoods linked colors to personalities to help consumers identify with their Brand Spokescandies — winners of the Favorite Ad Icons and Slogans contest sponsored the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies last November.

Chocolate is better in color

Candy is dandy, and consumers like to reward themselves with small indulgences. In fact, confectionery sales are booming, particularly at Masterfoods USA, Hackettstown, N.J., a division of Mars Inc. and the home of M&M's, one of the most popular brands in the world.

"We are committed to our core brands: M&M's, Snickers, Starburst and Skittles," explains Timothy LeBel, vice president of sales strategy. "The consumer is our boss; we deliver what they want, and we continue to make products relevant to each generation."

LeBel also explains the importance of collaborative planning. "Our goal is to successfully align customer strategy, brand strategy and consumer demand to win in the marketplace," he says. "And we are always looking for opportunities to create new snacking occasions and leverage other iconic properties to bring new news and excitement to consumers. Specifically, we build national overlays and activation plans surrounding our sponsorship with the NFL and NASCAR, and develop Limited Edition products that are tied to iconic events such as creating dark chocolate M&M's for the release of Star Wars Episode III. This strategy brings continued excitement to our category and builds incremental growth at retail."

While Starburst and Skittles have their fans, M&Ms candies are at the core of Masterfoods' success. The universally loved M&Ms brand characters and the famous slogan, "The milk chocolate melts in your mouth — not in your hand," debuted in TV ads in 1954. Reinforcing brand awareness, the characters appeared on packaging in 1972. In the 1980s, the company expanded internationally, primarily in Europe. The candies became so popular with consumers, the first space shuttle astronauts chose to have M&M's onboard. Utilizing the M&M's characters in 1996, Mars' ad campaign catapulted to the No. 1 position, as rated by USA Today. The characters became a hit with consumers, too — surpassing even the popularity of Mickey Mouse and Bart Simpson, according to Marketing Evaluation Inc.

M&M's branding succeeds because the company uses humor and fun to get us to identify with one of their charming Brand Spokescandies — winners of the Favorite Ad Icons and Slogans contest sponsored the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies last November. Taking a bow were Red, the leader of the pack (or so he thinks); Yellow, the optimist who sees the good in everything; Crispy (he's orange), who longs to be on the endangered species list; Blue, a most confident fellow who likes the ladies, particularly Green, the resident femme fatale. Introduced in 1997, this multifaceted '90s woman has starred in a number of commercials, and she's toured the U.S. promoting her autobiography, "I Melt for No One."

In early 1998, the characters proclaimed themselves the "Official Spokescandies of the New Millennium," a logical and clever connection since "MM" in Roman numerals means 2000. Consumers around the world logged onto M&M's new global website in 2002, and voted in M&M's Global Color Vote, the largest promotion in the brand's 63-year history. Candy lovers from more than 200 countries participated. With purple, pink and aqua on the ballot, fans used their phones, logged onto, sent in mail and visited kiosks worldwide to cast their votes. Purple won, with 41 percent of the vote.

But there have been dark times too. On New Year's Eve 2004, Red and Yellow were partying with the world's oldest teenager, Dick Clark, and lost their color. The return of their colors two months later was celebrated in Los Angeles, where voices cheered and exclaimed, "Chocolate is better in color."

Even executives at Nabisco aren't sure of the origin of the "Oreo" name.

Take ownership of your cookie

In the enviable position of being the No. 1 selling cookie in America since its introduction in 1912, the Oreo, made by Nabisco, East Hanover, N.J., a brand of Kraft Foods, was a true innovation – two chocolate disks with a crème filling in between. Among the first "interactive" foods, Oreos allow, in fact encourage, consumers to be creative when eating them. From dunking them in milk, twisting them apart, eating the creme first or slowly nibbling or quickly gobbling a handful, consumers can take ownership and make eating Oreos into a very individual creative experience.
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