Such were the challenges for Burson-Marsteller and Segway LLC as the company prepared to introduce the Segway Human Transporter (HT), the world’s first self-balancing, electric-powered personal transportation machine. We believe this program is worthy of a SABRE Award based on the challenges above, how B-M/Segway addressed them and managed the execution of a program that has garnered unprecedented results, surpassed its objectives and raised awareness of the Segway HT on a global scale.
Introducing a new product and transportation category requires a solid understanding of the personal transportation market, urban planning, environmental issues, consumer safety and media. B-M researched the findings and positions of key thought leaders in all of these areas to better understand the climate Segway was preparing to enter. B-M analyzed criticisms the media had previously made on less comparable personal transportation solutions, such as scooters, bicycles and electric cars focusing on the consumer safety issues raised. In order to make the claim that the Segway HT could change urban living, the team had to understand the social barriers that would need to be overcome before attempting to integrate the product in cities. B-M researched these etiquette and environmental issues for consideration in message development.
In developing the strategy, B-M/Segway had a number of challenges to be addressed:
- Ensure overall initial acceptance of the Segway HT as a serious productivity and efficiency tool for businesses and creation of the “empowered pedestrian” in urban areas.
- Position the Segway HT as the premier product in a brand new category.
- Launch the Segway HT to the world with no advertising support, while building excitement, enthusiasm and demand from media, commercial business prospects and ultimately consumers.
Before B-M began designing the launch of the Segway HT in a highly confidential and contained environment, there was a leak earlier in the year initiating months of incredible media and public speculation as to what the mysterious product Dean Kamen was developing would do. Ranging from pessimistic to highly far-fetched predictions, B-M was faced with introducing a product with high anticipation and expectation surrounding it, knowing we would need to position this appropriately at launch to avoid any disappointment.
The primary PR objectives were to:
1.) Control the message and reveal of the Segway Human Transporter with media to ensure this much anticipated, but never seen, transportation device was presented appropriately to an expectant global audience.
2.) Deliver overall awareness and establish the significance and seriousness of the company and product brand.
3.) Maximize interest/excitement among potential customers as a serious productivity and efficiency tool, while driving traffic/business registration at the Segway.com web site
Faced with these objectives and challenges, Segway/B-M built the launch in three distinct phases: 1.) a select reveal to a small number of target media under embargo; 2.) a mass reveal/photo opportunity announcing the product to the public and briefing a broader group of key media; and 3.) a post reveal phase, making milestone announcements and accommodating ongoing media inquiries. Introducing the select reveal embargo strategy into the launch formula helped ensure the initial impact on mass reveal day with appropriate messages. This controlled setting lent itself to less chance of message distortion and misunderstanding since reporters would experience the product first-hand with a detailed briefing. To communicate the product’s seriousness as a personal productivity tool, all phases of the reveal included strong reference to Segway’s first customers, which included the United States Postal Service, Amazon.com, Delphi Automotive, GE Plastics, the National Park Service, and the city of Atlanta.
Segway/B-M carefully selected news outlets to brief under embargo before the announcement would be made on December 3, 2001. Based on the potential to reach target audiences and maximize exposure on launch day, our strategy was to have articles/segments air in a national newspaper, newsweekly, and morning show. B-M approached the New York Times, Time Magazine, and Good Morning America during the immediate weeks before reveal and arranged/facilitated these briefings.
B-M/Segway worked with Good Morning America to produce a “teaser” segment on 11/30 that primed their audience to tune in on 12/3 when the product would be revealed.
In preparation for reveal day, the team also developed press materials, created a media response phone and web infrastructure, and began organizing the logistics of the reveal.
B-M/Segway shot and produced a video news release on private grounds allowing inventor Dean Kamen to introduce the Segway HT, deliver key messages, explain how easily it works, and show people trying the product for the first time (all were under NDA).
B-M produced an electronic press kit using the VNR footage to send to media, investors, and Segway employees on 12/3.
B-M/Segway arranged for a NY site to host one-on-one media briefings on Dec. 3rd and 4th.
Segway/B-M consulted the president of the National Consumer’s League and senior Consumer Product Safety Commission officials on the product’s safety features as points of reference for media.
In the three to four days before launch, B-M booked additional media for briefings beginning on December 3, 2001.
Mass Reveal ~ December 3-4, 2001
Segway issued its first press release revealing the Segway HT and its first customers the morning of December 3, 2001.
Segway’s Dean Kamen, introduced the Segway Human Transporter live on Good Morning America the morning of December 3rd. The product was revealed in-studio and demonstrated by Kamen and the shows two hosts, Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson, in New York’s Bryant Park for a large portion of the show.
The New York Times and Time Magazine stories, based on the pre-reveal briefings, ran on December 3rd.
B-Roll and VNR were distributed via satellite feed at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM on December 3rd and December 4th.
A second press release announcing Segway’s key suppliers was issued at 11:00 AM on December 3rd.
One-on-one briefings and demonstrations were conducted with key print, wire, broadcast, and online media 12/3-4.
Hosted photo/video press opportunity at event site for local/international broadcast outlets and photojournalists on 12/3.
Segway hosted a teleconference with Dean Kamen for press unable to meet individually for interviews on 12/7.
Segway made its first milestone announcement on 12/6 with the agreement by the Boston Police Department to test the units beginning in 2002. B-M invited press to a live demonstration at the Boston Commons with police officers demonstrating how they would use the Segway HT.
Segway conducted a West Coast media tour (San Francisco, Los Angeles) including a live demonstration with San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown in City Hall and a guest appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
B-M/Segway are continuing to hold ongoing phone and in-person one-on-one briefings with key media.
EVALUATION OF SUCCESS
Objective 1: Control the message and reveal of the Segway HT with media to ensure it was presented appropriately.
Our embargo strategy worked with launch day articles appearing in the New York Times on the front page of the business section, Time Magazine (a 7 page story) and GMA’s launch day coverage totaling over 23 minutes of air time in a two-hour morning show. All pieces delivered key messages, focused on the commercial applications and drove awareness and interest with media, commercial prospects and consumers.
As the broader spectrum of media saw the initial pieces the morning of 12/3 they picked up the key messages and product attributes and integrated this information into their own developing stories. In addition, B-M arranged one-on-one briefings with key media during the launch. Articles/segments have appeared in the following outlets including, but not limited to: TV/Radio: CNN (over five different segments), Tech TV, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Fox News, ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, CNBC, NPR, CBS Radio, CNET Radio. Print: Fortune, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Associated Press, Reuters, CNET, Business 2.0, Wired, The Economist, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Washington Post, Detroit Free Press, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Orange County Register. International: Agence France-Presse, London’s Daily Telegraph, London Times, Nihon Keizai Shimbum, Frankfurther Allemeine Zeitung, BBC, The Ottawa Citizen.
Objective 2: Deliver overall awareness/establish significance of the product and brand.
At current count, over 2,300 print articles and over 1,000 broadcast segments have appeared worldwide with impressions totaling: over 837,173,340 and an estimated ad equivalency of over $27 million. (See attached media placements report for full details).
With the VNR, we reached an audience of over 123 million and, according to National Satellite, the Segway HT Video News Release is their most successful non-event product launch VNR/BROLL in its history.
Objective 3: Maximize interest/excitement among potential customers as a serious productivity/efficiency tool and drive site traffic/registration
With no advertising at launch, over 4,500 business leads were registered on the Segway web site from 12/3/01 – 1/9/02 based purely on the PR efforts to launch the Segway HT.
The Segway.com web site generated over 4.2 million hits from 12/3/01 – 1/9/02
With no advertising support, B-M/Segway alone achieved a remarkable level of awareness of the Segway HT around the world. The launch capitalized on the dramatic impact public relations can have on an audience and its role in influencing key markets.