An octogenarian's renaissance, a reinvention of the laptop and a bunch of irate birds--just a few examples of what grips the public's pop-culture consciousness. Some are the result of true innovation, some are examples of grace under pressure--and some things just go viral, because that's what happens now. Here's our look at the best marketing moves of the past year. (For the opposite of marketing brilliance, view this article.)
It's not like Betty White ever really went away. From radio dramas in the 1940s, TV variety shows in the '50s and '60s, a stint on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and, of course, her series-stealing turn as Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls, White has been a staple of popular entertainment since the cathode ray's beginning. But at the age of 88, White found herself in the middle of one of the strangest entertainment stories of 2010--a popular uprising.
In early 2010, David Mathews of San Antonio, Texas, launched a Facebook page asking for White to host Saturday Night Live. A successful Super Bowl Snickers commercial in which White takes a particularly brutal tackle, a surprise Golden Girls resurgence and a zany performance in the Sandra Bullock summer rom-com The Proposal all had whetted the public's appetite for White. The Facebook petition picked up several hundred thousand signers within a few months, and SNL producer Lorne Michaels offered White the Mother's Day edition of the show. She signed on, and White's digital dominance was complete.
White's performance was edgy and widely praised, and the grandmother with a blue streak finished out 2010 by agreeing to costar in the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland, releasing a calendar and popping up in cameo roles on almost every self-respecting comedy in the fall.
The Betty White mania may be winding down, but that doesn't mean she'll ever fade away.
"In earlier days she probably had just as many fans," says Robert Lloyd, TV critic for the Los Angeles Times. "But not in the same way we can be a fan now. You can push a button and join a club, and be part of a movement. The thing about Betty White is she belongs to a lot of generations. She's not just a cute old lady. The fact is, she's just funny."
Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.