10 Brilliant Marketing Ideas

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From radio to YouTube clips, 10 companies that changed everything.
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As every dedicated watcher of Mad Men knows, advertising is built on the genius of ideas. Inspiration can strike from any corner (and in every flashback). And beware: Even the greatest ideas are fleeting.

But every now and then, an idea comes along that changes the game for good. Yes, the campaign generates huge, instantaneous buzz and moves plenty of product--but it also stands the test of time, infiltrating the culture in subtle ways for decades to come.

"It doesn't happen often," says Bruce Vanden Bergh, advertising professor at Michigan State University, "because it takes a combination of the right people with the right skills, the right climate and luck."

And sometimes, it takes nothing less than a breakthrough.

Selling diamonds during the Great Depression, charging more for a spirit no one can identify blindfolded, pitching a tiny car during the era of chrome and fins--all of these campaigns made Entrepreneur's list of 10 brilliant marketing ideas. The list spans more than 70 years--from pre-TV to the YouTube era. Just don't get upset when you learn how you've been manipulated. It's the nature of the business.

In the words of Don Draper, Mad Men's tortured lead, "What you call love was invented by guys like me," he says. "To sell nylons."