Tactic: A Scandinavian- sounding name helps impart instant old-world credibility.
Truth: A Bronx entrepreneur dreamed up the appellation.
Risk: A competitor with a similar tactic, Frusen Glädjé, failed to last.
Cold Stone Creamery
Tactic: Happy scoopers spontaneously burst into song, evoking the nostalgia of old-time soda fountains.
Truth: There's nothing spontaneous about it, as repeat customers discover.
Risk: With 1,300 outlets and counting, will the music turn monotonous?
Tactic: A craft-brew brand built around its Boston roots.
Truth: With sales booming nationwide, more than half of Sam Adams is brewed in Cincinnati.
Risk: Will Sam's growth sour its "local" flavor?
George Killian's Irish Red
Tactic: Looks like an import from Ireland.
Truth: Concocted by the folks at
Risk: Does a domestic beer that implies it's an import sound genuine to you?
Tactic: TV ads use John Mellencamp's hymn to American greatness, "Our Country," to sell trucks.
Truth: Fending off foreign imports has been a protectionist impulse for decades.
Risk: Inspiring patriotism or a jingoistic jingle that sticks it to
Tactic: Revive the zippy do-anything spirit of a 1960s British icon.
Truth: Built by Germans who bought the dormant brand.
Risk: Could a brand for entry-level buyers erode BMW's luxury cachet?
Tactic: Create a fictional mascot, Juan Valdez, to promote "100% Colombian coffee."
Truth: The original Juan wasn't a coffee grower or even from Colombia; he was a New York—based actor.
Risk: A new generation raised on primo beans from as far away as Sumatra might not relate to a resurrected Juan.
Tactic: Create sumptuous cafés that sell a "coffee experience" along with $4 lattes.
Truth: Stores now use automatic espresso machines—something you're not likely to find in Milan.
Risk: Starbucks is so mainstream, even its chairman worries it isn't special anymore.
Tactic: Leverage its rich heritage to become the king of denim.
Truth: Levi's ignored the craze for high-fashion jeans, and paid by losing millions in sales.
Risk: Can Levi's stay "real" and still find its cool?
Abercrombie & Fitch
Tactic: Dim the lights and pump up the music to sell jeans to teens—and drive out their parents.
Truth: Started as a rod-and-gun outfitter for blue bloods.
Risk: A stumble could leave Abercrombie hurting for the over-25 set it now scorns.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.