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For Staples, Easy Does It


Staples turns a cheap tchotchke into a sensation.

For most of its life, Staples (SPLS) used the slogan "Yeah, we've got that." In 2003, that slogan was replaced with "That was easy." In 2005, the "That Was Easy" button was born.

The device debuted on a Staples commercial, where office workers completed simple tasks and then tapped the big, red button. Out would come an electronic voice that declared "that was easy." Straightforward enough. But beneath its deceptively simple veneer, the Staples Easy Button is actually a marketer's dream come true.

The Easy Button has become something of a branding sensation, appearing on television shows and in offices across the country. On the Staples website, you can watch the Easy Button commercials, download them to your iPod, watch outtakes, and even play interactive games that feature the Easy Button. And here's the kicker: for just $5, you can actually buy your very own Easy Button at your local Staples.

Whether or not the button actually makes anything easier isn't really the point (it doesn't). What matters is that whoever is in earshot of the device will be reminded of Staples. It's the kind of marketing gift that keeps on giving-and it seems to be working. Staples is the world's largest retailer of office supplies, with over 2,000 stores in 11 countries. And with $18.2 billion in revenue, it squarely outperforms rivals Office Max (OMX), with $8.9 billion, and Office Depot (ODP), with $15.5 billion.

Other companies have long sold products featured in their commercials. Coca-Cola (KO) has introduced so many tchotchkes in commercials that there's an entire website devoted to selling them. Love the Coke bear? Head on over to where for $295, you can buy a 3 foot, plush bear complete with a glass bottle of Coke.

The Geico cavemen became so wildly popular they were picked up for a TV show. ABC's (DIS) Cavemen premiered on October 2, 2007. It was canceled four months later, but Geico kept their commercials going, even parodying the failed TV show.

Join Hoofy and Boo as they take a closer look at Staples and the big, red button that defines their business.

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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