Cybiko: Technology for Teens
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Holmes Report
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Cybiko: Technology for Teens

The Cybiko handheld computer combines instant messaging, interactive gaming, personal information applications and free game downloads from the company’s Web site.

Paul Holmes

In 1999, 32-year-old Russian physicist, inventor, entrepreneur, technology guru David Yang had an idea for a sophisticated, unusual wireless personal communicator.  Later that year, backed by funding from his 10-year-old Abbyy Software House, an award-winning, global company with over 140 employees in four countries, Yang (Armenian and Chinese) founded Cybiko, Inc. He established headquarters in a Chicago suburb while maintaining Cybiko technology and R&D staff in Russia.  Yang tapped seasoned Chicago executive Don Wisniewski to serve as president and chief marketing officer.  The Cybiko handheld computer combines instant messaging, interactive gaming, personal information applications and free game downloads from the company’s Web site. 
 
CHALLENGE
 
The pair knew they had a breakthrough product, which they brought to market in just 10 months, but realized that with limited funding, a major key to their success would be a strong, dynamic public relations campaign.  They enlisted Publicis Dialog’s New York office (formerly Geltzer & Company) to develop a strategy for the launch. 
 
RESEARCH
 
Initially designed for young adults, research conducted by Yang revealed an untapped American market – teens and tweens (pre-teens).  The first generation to grow up with a computer mouse in their hands did not have a personal digital assistant (PDA) to call their own.  Research conducted revealed that: teens were emerging as early adopters of new technology and that the handheld computer would be the first PDA communicator designed especially for the youth market. and Cybiko would be the first to offer free downloadable games from its Web site. Play tests with youngsters indicated that the product appealed equally to boys and girls and they loved its funky design. The most popular features included instant messaging/chat and interactive games.  These findings and other research were used to develop positioning strategies for the launch.
 
Research conducted by Publicis Dialog included intelligence on competitive product introductions planned for Toy Fair 2000 – a few large toy companies would be introducing similar wireless products but none were as robust and sophisticated as Cybiko – and a look at the history of distribution in the toy market – the majority of products do not become available at retail until late in the year. Publicis Dialog also examined previous success stories to determine if specific tactics were frequently used to create national awareness of hit toys.  The team investigated opportunities that would position Cybiko alongside credible companies and provide third-party endorsement for the product.
 
PLANNING/ OBJECTIVES
 
With the enthusiasm of a technology startup and armed with the research findings, key Cybiko and Publicis Dialog staff identified several objectives for the 2000 campaign:
    Penetrate the competitive clutter at Toy Fair to introduce Cybiko, Inc. and its new tech toy for teens.
  • Generate business and trade coverage to establish a positive corporate image; interest business and financial communities and potential investors in Cybiko; influence buyers to encourage sell-in.
  • Create a passionate demand for Cybiko in the teen/tween market and generate acceptance of the product among parents with buying power.
  • Secure substantial media interest to ensure Cybiko received feature coverage and was included in toy roundup stories leading up to the all-important holiday buying season.
 
EXECUTION
 
Key messages were developed to emphasize Cybiko’s multiple features and its array of “firsts.” Media training was conducted to help executives, including Russian Yang, communicate concisely and powerfully.  To introduce Cybiko to U.S. market and help the product stand out among thousands of products, including those from large, reputable companies, the team developed an attention-grabbing invitation – a dummy unit with Toy Fair booth information on the product’s screen.  The unique look of the product invitation caught the media’s attention, driving traffic and media coverage.  To underscore Cybiko’s many uses, and make the company appear to be more than a two-month-old small startup, the press kit included fact sheets on each feature. The Web site was mentioned in all materials.  Cybiko also created an exciting booth featuring colorful benches and a working device at every seat to entice attendees to leisurely play with the product and follow along with the live demonstration led by hired actors.  Participation in a satellite media tour with an industry expert helped reach consumers in major markets quickly and gave the campaign a quick start. 
 
The success of Toy Fair was attributed to two specific tactics that became critical to the overall campaign – putting the unique product in the hands of the editors and arranging one-on-one meetings with enthusiast executives and the media.  To generate excitement around the New York retail test market in April 2000, Publicis Dialog staged a press event at FAO Schwarz with teen models and product demonstrators. The powerful Toy Fair invitation was used and the demonstration was repeated in the store along with positive comments about the product from key FAO Schwarz executives. Nearly 40 media, including national TV, attended the breakfast event.  Publicis Dialog immediately initiated an extensive, ongoing product loan program.  Throughout the year, hundreds of editors received pairs of Cybikos to test its interactive features for a 30-day period.  Staffers encouraged editors to let their children test the product, and many included their feedback in coverage.  To establish a positive corporate image for Cybiko, Inc., the agency arranged ongoing media interviews and desk-side product demos for its president and CEO and reported news of increased retail distribution and new funding. 
 
As Cybiko rolled out to retailers nationwide, the team segmented its pitch, focusing on the various target audiences including youth media, consumer “mom” magazines, computer publications and business and tech editors.  To capitalize on the product’s unusual look and support the media outreach, a variety of eye-catching photos were used. To tap the teen market, we secured editorial coverage and in-book product giveaways in teen publications.  When Cybiko teamed up with the teen band BB-Mak and gave away products at concerts, we arranged a special photo of the band using the product, then secured a second round of placements in teen publications and music magazines.  To ensure parents would read about Cybiko, Publicis Dialog submitted the product for toy tests conducted by the national consumer media, which were published during the holiday season.  In addition, the agency conducted an intensive effort to penetrate holiday gift guides and gift-giving segments.  Cybiko also launched a test “Tech-ucation” program to integrate the device into school lessons.  We also participated in product placement opportunities on game shows targeting youths and began a program to secure placements on sitcoms and in films.
 
RESULTS
 
The success of the Cybiko launch went well beyond expectations and met all the strategic objectives.  The results proved that research findings, strategy, key messaging and execution were all on target. 
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