Magazine article Marketing

Launching Fads

Magazine article Marketing

Launching Fads

Article excerpt

New gadgets succeed as much on their image as their usefulness. Robert Dwek asks three PRs how they would introduce BT's prototype

Until very recently, people knew what 'high-tech' meant - intriguing innovations enthusiastically promoted by bizarre boffins, usually on Tomorrow's World. It was unfamiliar, but unthreatening.

It was diverting, fascinating, exciting - but it was still 'high-tech'. And that meant you didn't hold your breath for it to become an everyday reality, you knew it would be years before it had any meaningful impact on your life - if ever.

After all, much of it was gimmicky or downright silly. It didn't mean business, it meant show business. But in what must be a micro-nanosecond of human history, all that has changed.

High-tech is no longer something separate and distinguishable from everyday life. Indeed, the very phrase high-tech is beginning to seem stale and old-fashioned. Today's world is one of breathless change, where tomorrow's world is more likely to have a literal rather than a figurative meaning. Nowhere is this more apparent than in communications technology.

US statisticians have calculated that the total pool of global knowledge doubled between 1870 and 1950. It doubled again between 1950 and 1970 and doubled once more over the next decade. This rate of 100% growth is now said to happen every eight-and-a-half years. And much of the explanation for this staggering statistic boils down to improved communications technology, allowing ideas to spread at a rate undreamed of even 50 years ago.

So what does this all mean for the public relations industry? Well, for one thing, PRs are going to have to get to grips very rapidly with technological advances. They will have to help their clients develop a new language that can communicate the immediacy and relevance of today's communications technology without turning off the non-technical consumer. It isn't an easy process. But the ones who do will have an enormous advantage over the laggards - and the test of tomorrow's PR companies will be how adaptable they are to technology.

Marketing decided to put a few PRs to the test. We came up with a theoretical product - based on something BT is working on - with the following features: it is worn on the arm, although for obvious reasons is larger than a watch; it contains a sophisticated computer, VDU and generous storage capacity; and it has a fax, e-mail, Internet and telephone facility. Priced at [pounds]1,200, this imaginary product is scheduled for launch in three months.

Two themes to emerge from these different strategies were the importance of the 'early adopter' market and the overriding need to humanise such a high-tech, high-spec product. Do you agree?

Ian Grayson account manager at Hill & Knowlton

High-tech clients include 3Com, EDS and Motorola H&K would target "affluent young professionals working in finance, sales, IT and early adopters of new technology". The campaign would be designed to generate coverage in quality national newspapers and business titles, plus key lifestyle magazines.

This would be followed by a series of exclusive events designed to "facilitate data capture of quality leads and begin development of a 'club culture' for users".

Grayson has two proposals for the launch, depending on budget. One is a James Bond theme, held on the set of a Bond movie at Pinewood Studios. The event would be introduced by 'Q' and part of the presentation would be communicated through the products that the assembled journalists would have been given to wear.

The second launch idea is a Thunderbirds theme, which would be conducted on a small island off Spain. It would mean recreating the original set and using original puppets and voices in the presentation. Journalists could use the devices to file copy back to their offices and communicate with each other while on the island.

Post-launch work would include customer events held in London hotels, using 'impressive' AV shows to demonstrate the product's features and include footage of the launch event. …

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