A Silent Spokesperson: Motorola Gets Noticed
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A Silent Spokesperson: Motorola Gets Noticed

Who would have thought that a silent spokesperson – one who does not speak a single word – would be considered the perfect voice for a high-tech communications company?

Paul Holmes

Who would have thought that a silent spokesperson – one who does not speak a single word – would be considered the perfect voice for a high-tech communications company?  Where a spokesperson traditionally speaks about the goals and visions of a company, Hill and Knowlton decided that Brett Banfe, an 18-year old college student who was one week away from taking a year-long vow of silence, would make an ideal representative, though atypical, for their client, Motorola.
 
In August 2000, H&K formed a partnership with Brett for a publicity stunt to promote Motorola’s two-way messaging device, the Talkabout T900, a portable wireless device capable of exchanging messages with any e-mail address – whether it is from a PC or another mobile device.  With no words to express his feelings and no vocal emissions to send his love home to Mom from college, Brett was the ideal spokesperson to personify the Talkabout T900’s talk w/out talking brand positioning. 
 
 
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
 
H&K first learned about Brett and his plan to go silent through a tip from a friend, only two weeks prior to Brett’s vow of silence.  As a result, H&K had limited time to finalize the agreement with Brett and to leverage the relationship in advance of his silent period.  To compensate for Brett’s move to silence, H&K decided that it would be most beneficial to leverage his mother as an ongoing voice for the powerful nature of Motorola’s technology and products in order to secure additional media coverage.  Therefore, although Brett was to be silent during the majority of media outreach, he would act as the silent spokesperson and conduct media interview via e-mail, thanks to his Talkabout T900.  Additionally, his mother would be the choice when verbal communication was more appropriate.
 
RESEARCH
 
In an effort to develop the most effective plan for executing the “Silent Brett” campaign, H&K conducted soft media soundings to learn the potential for national media coverage and the ability for Motorola to increase its share-of-voice in the story.
 
In addition, research was conducted to identify any previous “non speaking” spokespeople.  As expected, H&K and Motorola were charting new territories – Brett was the first of his kind.
 
PLANNING
 
Prior to signing an agreement with Brett Banfe, H&K developed an integrated marketing communications plan to leverage Motorola’s relationship with Brett.  The plan outlined a variety of tactics that would be used to build awareness of the benefits of the T900 among three audiences.  This plan included receiving permission to use Brett’s mother as a spokesperson “with a voice” for parenting and women’s publications, researching appropriate national day-time talk show interviews for Brett and then securing these opportunities, pitching Brett’s story to teen and college publications and developing online chat and promotional concepts for possible use throughout the year-long stunt.  H&K also conducted a media training session with Brett and his mother to educate them about and prepare them to deliver key Motorola and T900 messages for media interviews.
 
Objectives
 
H&K had very specific objectives for the “Silent Brett” campaign:
  • Increase sales of the Talkabout T900;
  • Drive teens and young adults to a Brett/T900 Web site which H&K would help create, resulting in the creation of a cult following for the T900 among this core audience; and
  • Increase national awareness of the T900 and Brett through extensive TV and print coverage.
 
Audience
 
H&K used the “Silent Brett” campaign to reach three specific audiences:
  • Teens and young adults, including 18- to 24- year olds who crave the latest wireless technology and want functional products to simplify their daily lives
  • Families and individuals who wish to stay connected and in touch with the help of the latest wireless communication tools
  • The general public, including those in the business world who are interested in technology and typically watch and read mainstream television and magazines
 
STRATEGIC APPROACH
 
Within a two-week time period, from the moment Brett Banfe was identified to the time the agreement was made, H&K analyzed the possible benefits of leveraging this publicity stunt to Motorola’s advantage and decided upon the following strategies:
  • Provide Brett with his own T900 so that he could communicate with the media and showcase firsthand the new communication device
  • Approach Brett’s mother to act as a spokesperson for the year when a verbal conversation is requested
  • Provide additional T900 units to Brett’s family and close friends so that they too could speak on its benefits
 
EXECUTION
 

Oprah tells millions that the Talkabout T900 is a “cute little two-way text messaging device”

Once The “Silent Brett” campaign was confirmed, H&K decided the most effective way to tell Brett’s story and to reach each audience in the most targeted way would be to divide pitches into three categories: 1.) Brett pitches geared for the teens/college students, 2.) Sharon Banfe pitches geared for women and parents, and 3.) general pitches targeting the overall public. 

 
H&K developed a group of media materials, including a news release written on Motorola’s behalf, announcing the T900 as Brett’s communications device of choice during his year of silence; a Brett Banfe bio; a T900 fact sheet; T900 slides and an overview of Brett’s vow of silence.
 
Our activities included:
 
A.  Teen and College Student Outreach
In order to target teens and college students, H&K began to promote the T900 as the product which best keeps the active social teen in touch with friends and family at all times.  One of the initial promotions was to create a Web site on which Brett could write updates on his life without speaking, and as a result, continue to maintain public interest.  H&K determined that the college audience would be effectively reached through the Web site given the younger generation’s affinity for spending time online. 
 
B.  Women and Family Outreach
After Brett spoke his last words, H&K moved to leverage Brett’s mother as a spokesperson for the T900.  This effort included pitching parenting and family television shows, women’s publications and late-night TV.
 
C.  General Public Outreach
To maximize Motorola’s coverage during the week of Brett’s ‘last words’, H&K opted to put the product in Brett’s hands for display during his Today Show and MSNBC interviews, instead of waiting to present him with the device as he spoke his last words.  As a result, Brett had the actual product to show and discuss during all interviews prior to speaking his final words.  In addition to placing Brett on targeted programs with the T900 device, we issued a news release designed to generate a national response from media, including coverage in wireless industry trade publications and national TV news shows.
 
RESULTS
 
This publicity campaign generated astounding national attention from both trade and consumer media outlets and, to date, has proved successful in building awareness of the T900 among the product’s target audiences.  Results include:
  • After the first month of the campaign, the sales figures for the Talkabout T900 increased 80%.  Then, in the second month following the launch of the campaign, sales increased an additional 21% from the first month of the campaign.  In total, over a two-month period of campaign activities, sales increased more than 100%.
  • Considerable knowledge about the T900 and Brett’s Web site, www.notspeaking.com was achieved, with more than 300,000 hits per day.
  • H&K also achieved much success in publicizing Brett and the T900 to the general public via a variety of national television and magazines including:
  • The “How People are Changing Their Lives” episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, reaching more than 22 million viewers.  During this show, Brett, his family and the T900 were introduced in an in-studio interview.  Brett’s mother detailed key product messages and the functionality of the product was highlighted in a ‘day in the life of’ video of Brett at college.  Additionally, while on the show, Brett presented Oprah with her own T900.
  • The Today Show (audience: 6,096,340)
  • MSNBC (audience: 41,000,000)
  • Wireless Week (impressions: 94,482)
  • “Bloomberg Money” and more than a dozen local TV stations from Portland to Philadelphia
  • Business 2.0 (impressions: 750,000)
  • Revolution Magazine (impressions:  625,000)
 
Additionally, due to the fact that a majority of the pitches supporting this campaign were done in the fall months, many publications decided that the T900 would be a great product to feature in their holiday gift guides.  Therefore, the T900 was featured in various popular teen publications, including Twist (impressions: 655,682) and Teen (impressions: 5,156,242).
 
SPECIAL NOTES
 
As a result of the inclusion of Brett and the Talkabout T900 on the Oprah’s “How People are Changing Their Lives” episode, the T900 was then featured on Oprah’s “My Favorite Things” episode – once again reaching more than 22 million viewers.  This show featured Oprah’s favorite items for the upcoming holiday season.  She described the main functionality of the T900, as well as put the product on display.  This show was replayed twice after the initial airing during the key shopping time prior to the holidays.

 [HC1]Don’t want people to think that its only email….you can send messages to one way pagers, email messages, mobile devices etc.

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