Magazine article Marketing

Launch Procedures

Magazine article Marketing

Launch Procedures

Article excerpt

PR on the Net can provide a cost-effective means of promoting a new product without huge investment, writes Harriot Lane Fox

If people go, "Er, what?" when they hear about your product, if you can't sum up its USP in 15 words or less, if advertising to, all potential markets would cost a packet, you've got a problem. But not an insoluble one. The world and his wife may salivate over loadsamoney TV campaigns but many brands get by on good old PR hustle. Forget the Kennedy question - it's "Where were you when Haagen-Dazs launched?"

The US brand debuted over here with little cash to back it - the media spend was only [pounds]300,000. Premium ice cream was virtually unheard of in the home of plastic-tubbed vanilla, especially at Haagen-Dazs' super-elevated price. PR created demand. In fact, it brought cult status to Cookies and Cream.

Cult is a word much bandied about by cash-strapped brand-owners entering untried markets, particularly food and drink. Posh snack pioneer Phileas Fogg and more recently the new alcoholic soft drinks have all run launch campaigns based round PR, with a little below-the-line activity, to generate a street chic and must-buy bow wave for their products.

Where consumer goods lead others follow and the classic case is information technology, the ultimate creator of new products for unknown and unknowing markets. Motorola, Hitachi and Digital Equipment Company are three major players that are treading the PR route.

When News International launched The Times and Sunday Times on-line this month by offering readers co-branded sets of the Internet Solution it marked the climax of an eight-month PR campaign by manufacturer Motorola.

The Internet Solution is just that: everything you need to get on to the Net in a simple pack. Motorola put it together to boost sales of modems at the cheaper end of the market, where brand awareness was poor, though it is one of the biggest manufacturers.

"Budget constrained" is how Simon Boyle, marketing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, describes Information Systems Group, his division of Motorola.

"We were entering the retail marketplace for the first time: we'd always been a business-to-business supplier," Boyle explains. "PR worked best on reaching our end-user."

Launched in June last year, the Internet Solution was a new product (there was nothing even like it at the time), in a new market segment for Motorola and sold through new distribution channels.

Boyle looked for a consultancy - and got Harvard Public Relations - that could handle both the consumer audience and the trade. Part of the cost came out of the regular PR fee, part was additional for the project. It came in at only a fraction of even a modest ad campaign.

The target market was 20- to 35-year-olds, predominantly men and with income to spend, Computer-owners but not necessarily 'techno-nerds'. The message was 'All you have to do is buy the box'.

As Harvard's PR director Simon Jones says: "It's just making sure Chris Tarrant is aware of it." The nationals, both broadsheet and tabloid, and the consumer computer press certainly were. But so were magazines Maxim and Wired, Radio 5 Live and ten local stations. The Times innovations editor Chris Lloyd was one of the journalists who attended the launch.

"If PR is going to be successful it's going to give you a head start," says Jones. "When a company doesn't have market share it sets out to steal it. …

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