In Memory

Linda F. Pezzano

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12/03/12 04:27 PM #1    

William Jarmolych


Linda Pezzano, 54, Marketer Who Aided 'Trivial Pursuit'

Published: October 28, 1999

Linda F. Pezzano, a marketing consultant who helped what once was an obscure Canadian board game, Trivial Pursuit, achieve sales totaling more than $1 billion, died Tuesday at a hospice in Manhattan. She was 54.

She died of cervical cancer, said her brother David.

The Trivial Pursuit campaign designed by Ms. Pezzano changed the way game makers do business. Dorothy Crenshaw, who worked with Ms. Pezzano in marketing games and other products, said the approach was based on drumming up favorable word-of-mouth comments, or buzz.

For Trivial Pursuit, Ms. Pezzano sent 1,800 top buyers who would be attending the 1983 New York Toy Fair a series of teasing messages in the months before the event. She also sent the game to Hollywood stars whose names were mentioned in its trivia questions. When some stars, including Gregory Peck, James Mason, Pat Boone and Larry Hagman, wrote letters of thanks, she used them in her promotions.

She also staged game-playing events at parks, bars, restaurants and ski clubs to stimulate conversation.


One virtue of her campaign was that it was cheap. By giving away a few hundred games at a wholesale cost of $12 each, a fad was started.

''She knew nobody would play a board game without getting their hands on it,'' said Chris Byrne, who in 1985 worked with Ms. Pezzano in selling the game Pictionary, a way of playing charades on paper. ''She took games to the people,'' said Mr. Byrne, who is now editor of Toy Report, an industry publication.

Mr. Byrne said her direct approach to potential players contrasted sharply with what was then the standard -- and expensive -- practice: relying on television, movies and licensing agreements.

''She created the model that everyone now uses,'' he said. ''Today we call it 'viral marketing.' ''

Giving games away was a major part of the strategy, and she and Mr. Byrne would sometimes pass out free Pictionary games to every passenger on a flight they were on. ''We estimated that for every complete Pictionary we gave away, we sold between 5 and 12 more,'' he said.

Ms. Pezzano was born and raised in Schenectady. She came to Manhattan at 17 to become a folk singer. She attended Elmira College without obtaining an undergraduate degree but later earned a master's degree from Columbia Business School while working full time.

Besides her brother David of Schenectady, she is survived by another brother, Michael of Portland, Ore.

After a short stint with a public relations firm in the early 1980's she founded her own company, which took on Trivial Pursuit as one of its first projects. After her company was acquired by Dorf & Stanton in 1986, she moved to Italy, where she advised businesses on international ventures. In 1995, she returned to New York and started a new company, Pezzano Inc.

She continued to work on games, including a new sports trivia game called Rules of the Game. Among her ideas was to sell it in sporting goods stores rather than toy stores, where board games are traditionally sold.

''You could go to Harvard Business School and learn how to do that,'' Mr. Byrne said, ''but to Linda it was always just common sense, and fun.''


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