Dual Disc Launch
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

Dual Disc Launch

With the compact disc celebrating its 20 anniversary, sales slumping, and more Americans opting to download rather than purchase physical music products, the music industry was looking for a new, retail hit in 2004.

Paul Holmes

With the compact disc celebrating its 20 anniversary, sales slumping, and more Americans opting to download rather than purchase physical music products, the music industry was looking for a new, retail hit in 2004. The record labels knew that they had that “hit” in DualDisc, a new, two-sided disc with both a CD and a DVD side, enabling music fans to enjoy a full album in enhanced sound as well as a wide range of video features such as interviews (all at about the same price as a CD and playable on all existing CD and DVD hardware).

The only issue: winning acceptance for DualDisc from skeptical music retailers at their most important trade show, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) Annual Conference.

In test markets, 82 percent of consumers who purchased DualDisc said they were very satisfied with the product, and 90 percent said they would definitely recommend DualDisc to a friend. Despite having a potential hit on their hands, the record labels knew they faced a skittish retail crowd. Industry meetings and media research indicated that music retailers were somewhat bitter following the introduction of the two latest formats, DVD-Audio and SACD.

The labels had disagreed on which should be the next generation format, and both required consumers to buy new equipment. Retailers felt the titles available on both DVD-Audio and SACD were too limited and sales of the new formats were weak. In short, the music labels needed to prove to retailers that DualDisc was something different, a product on which they would work together to market, and something that would have wide appeal to the average music consumer.

Leading into NARM 2004, the DualDisc Consortium had two goals: (1) Educate retailers about the features and functionality of DualDisc and (2) Gain buy-in from retailers, encouraging them to put DualDisc on store shelves.

The Brodeur-DualDisc team determined that planning around the DualDisc debut at NARM would surround three areas: (1) Presentation, (2) Demonstration and (3) Media Relations. (Agency fees were $40,000 and total out-of-pockets for the show were $60,000.) To guide the efforts in all three areas, the team developed key messages that would appeal to the retailers, and address their skepticism.

While PowerPoint was the typical format for “product presentations” at NARM, the Brodeur-DualDisc team decided that in order to make an impression, it needed to kick it up a notch and instead planned for a splashy video in 5.1 surround sound combined with a live artist performance. The video would educate retailers about DualDisc and prove that the labels were serious about DualDisc by including executive and artist quotes, test market statistics and promising a fall PR campaign.

The Consortium knew that music retailers would need to “touch and feel” DualDisc, so it booked a room adjacent to the ballroom in which the presentation was to take place. The demonstration would also serve the understated purpose of dispelling rumors that DualDisc did not work on current CD and DVD equipment, by providing visitors with more than 30 hardware devices from every major manufacturer on which to sample the product. To ensure message penetration, Brodeur also developed a two-sided collateral piece (dubbed the “flip book”) about DualDisc that the agency had already designed during the new business presentation to the Consortium.

Media relations were a delicate topic. The record labels were not ready for a full launch, and did not want to pre-empt the excitement of DualDisc’s retail debut to consumers. In addition, because of antitrust concerns, the labels could not discuss price or planned titles. The group opted to proactively target the most influential industry magazine (Billboard) and the leading wire service (AP) to establish the facts about DualDisc. All other questions would be answered by a thorough press release and responsive phone calls, supported by centralized key messages and a detailed Q&A.

For the presentation, the team hired a news producer to write the script, former MTV-personality Carson Daly for voice-over talent and Sony Music Studios to produce the graphic-heavy video in a record two weeks. The group also secured DualDisc artist, John Ondrasik from Five for Fighting, to perform his Platinum hits “100 Years” and “Superman,” introduce the video, and endorse the DualDisc concept from an artist’s perspective.

After recognizing that it was too late and too expensive to hire an exhibit company, Brodeur took on the challenge of designing the Demonstration Room, creating a floor plan and signage, procuring all of the equipment, and even setting up and dismantling the room. The team was also able to quickly write, design and produce the DualDisc “flip book” brochures.

Both of the outlets to whom we outreached prior to the event agreed to our interview terms, which included speaking to all five labels separately, not discussing pricing or titles, and receiving prime placement (for Billboard it was front page, for AP is was a 200+ word story).

Seeding DualDisc with the influential music retailers at NARM paid off significantly. All major music retail chains (Target, Best Buy, Virgin, Tower, et al) embraced the product and stocked it on store shelves. The first DualDisc released, Simple Plan’s “Still Not Getting Any …” went Gold six weeks after its release, signifying sales of 500,000.

The Ballroom was filled to capacity during the DualDisc presentation, which was executed flawlessly. More importantly, the content was well received. Several convention-goers noted that the presentation helped them to “understand what DualDisc is.”

The Demo Room was packed right after the presentation and gave retailers a chance to touch, feel and experience the product. What was really significant about having the Demo Room was that it was enough to quell concerns that the product might not work. It also enabled the record labels to engage with key retailers.

The “pre-seeded” DualDisc articles were balanced and provided an accurate overview of DualDisc, with all of our key messages pervading the stories and prime placement. Ethan Smith from the Wall Street Journal, who also covered DualDisc, commented that the press release was “extremely thorough.” In fact, several journalists wrote articles directly from the press release, using many of the quotes. More than 60 media outlets picked up Alex Veiga’s AP story.

Following the NARM event, Brodeur and the DualDisc Consortium executed a media relations campaign which resulted in coverage from USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, the Wall Street Journal (among others) as well as the distinction as one of BusinessWeek’s “Best Products of 2004.”

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