Changing the Way the World Communicates Information Visually
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

Changing the Way the World Communicates Information Visually

In May 1999, after several months of research and development, E Ink brought its revolutionary electronic ink technology out of the lab and into the marketplace with tremendous accolades from the media.

Paul Holmes

 

E Ink Corporation, headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., was formed in 1997 to change the way the world visually communicates information. The company has developed a proprietary technology called electronic ink, which provides significant advantages over other display technologies.

Electronic ink is a smart material that changes the image it displays when exposed to an electric field. That means surfaces coated with electronic ink can be updated continually with new information. Yet unlike conventional electronic displays, electronic ink-based displays offer all the benefits that have made ink on paper the preferred visual communication medium for the past 3,000 years.

Compared to other display technologies, electronic ink has a number of advantages, including: readability, flexibility, ease and low cost to manufacture and low power usage. In addition, electronic ink has far superior reflectivity and contrast. Because it looks similar to ink on paper, it is a comfortable medium for people to read and handle. And in bright light—including direct sunlight—where other displays wash out and become difficult to read, electronic ink-based displays actually become easier to see and read.

E Ink’s first commercial application of electronic ink is Immedia, a wireless display with the capability to instantly change messages. This intelligent signage medium offers marketers an affordable way to catch consumers’ attention in creative ways. With Immedia, retailers can customize messages to changing conditions and maintain total control over an entire wireless network of information displays. The thin, lightweight and flexible displays are designed to replace static paper signs in stores and deliver continuously updated messages to customers. The electronic ink-based displays can constantly re-typeset themselves with new messages, even from thousands of miles away. The Immedia displays can save a company thousands of dollars by eliminating the need to print and distribute paper signs. They also eliminate non-compliance problems experienced with paper signs, which more often than not are never displayed. 

In May 1999, after several months of research and development, E Ink brought its revolutionary electronic ink technology out of the lab and into the marketplace with tremendous accolades from the media. In 2000, Schwartz Communications, which has been behind E Ink’s publicity since early 1998, was charged with maintaining the same high level of media exposure that the agency generated for E Ink, electronic ink and Immedia during the initial product launch, while accomplishing the following: 

  • Position E Ink as changing the way the world visually communicates information 
  • Position Immedia as the retail tool of the future. 
  • Establish awareness of future applications for electronic ink, including PDAs, cell phones, e-books and e-newspapers.

PITCH

Schwartz targeted a number of audiences, including sales and marketing executives, retail executives, electronics executives, and newspaper and book industry executives. In order to reach the largest audience possible, the agency focused on securing stories in the national business and consumer press. At the same time, Schwartz approached targeted trade and vertical publication to present the story in a way that was relevant to each magazine’s particular audience.

Schwartz’s pitch involved communicating several key messages, including:

  • Lab to marketplace: the first-ever public display of electronic ink technology is a significant event, comparable to Thomas Edison showing the light bulb to the public.
  • Consumer appeal: the Immedia displays have incredible visual and consumer appeal that will soon become a staple in retail environments. 
  • Limitless potential: electronic ink has limitless potential for future consumer products such as personal electronics, electronic books and newspapers. 

Schwartz conveyed these messages through a number of news announcements, including strategic partnerships, customers, personnel, financing and awards; regular contact with targeted reporters, editors and producers; and by pursuing scheduled stories and awards relevant to E Ink’s business.

RESULTS

Schwartz was able to maintain the high level of awareness for E Ink by securing a number of feature stories about the company, its technology and product in the business, trade and vertical media. Highlights of business press coverage include Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times, Newsweek, Boston Globe, BusinessWeek Online, The Economist, CNBC, CNNfn.comMSNBC.com, Associated Press, Worth, Wired, Upside and FOX News.com, among many others. 

Schwartz’s efforts also resulted in tremendous coverage in various trade and vertical outlets within the science, technology, sales and marketing, displays and imaging, electronics, publishing and retail markets. Stories were secured in EE Times, Computerworld, Technology Review, ZDNet, InfoWorld, Focus, Creative, Signs of the Times, Sign Business, Point of Purchase, Sign Builder Illustrated, Newspapers & Technology, Presstime and Editor & Publisher, among many others. 

Schwartz was also able to maintain a high level of interest in E Ink overseas. Reporters and producers from more than 20 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia and Brazil, turned E Ink into a global story.

The coverage Schwartz generated for E Ink also resulted in the following:

  • 5,000 queries for information on the E Ink Web site; 30% were from people interested in investing in the company.
  • 100 qualified, high-profile sales leads from well-known, name brand companies. E Ink has made deals with four and is in negotiations with 25 others.
  • $37 million in a second round of venture financing.
  • E Ink grew from 65 to 130 employees.
  • E Ink was selected as one of Upside’s “Hot 100 Private Companies of 2000.”
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