The List

From pen-based pan­de­mo­nium to vi­ral fried chicken, these de­buts had se­ri­ous im­pact.

Fast Company - - Contents - By David Lid­sky

Ten su­per-suc­cess­ful prod­uct launches, from Sony’s Walk­man to Snap’s Spec­ta­cles.

By David Lid­sky Illustration by Peter Ou­man­ski

1 Reynolds Rocket Oc­to­ber 1945

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.

2 Edsel Septem­ber 1957

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.

3 Ko­dak In­sta­matic March 1963

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.

4 Sony Walk­man July 1979

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.

5 Ap­ple Mac­in­tosh Jan­uary 1984

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.

6 Mi­crosoft Win­dows 95 Au­gust 1995

After months of buildup, Mi­crosoft gath­ered thou­sands of jour­nal­ists and em­ploy­ees—along with lu­mi­nar­ies like Jay Leno—to re­veal its op­er­at­ing sys­tem. What hap­pened: Peo­ple lined up to buy it, mak­ing Win­dows 95 one of the first com­put­ing prod­ucts to have a true pop-cul­ture mo­ment.

7 Vi­a­gra April 1998

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.

8 Live­strong wrist­band May 2004

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.

9 KFC Dou­ble Down sand­wich April 2010

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.

10 Snap Spec­ta­cles Novem­ber 2016

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.

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