A constant PR challenge for hardware clients is engendering excitement into the launch of the latest “box”. For our client, Hewlett-Packard, we transformed a conventional press briefing into humorous live theatre, with outstanding results.
In response to a rapidly changing market for business computing services, HP developed the e-Vectra, marking the company’s entry into the important corporate PC appliance space. A cross between a traditional desktop and a web appliance, the e-Vectra was the first in HP’s family of e-PCs. Only one-fifth the size of a traditional desktop PC, yet packed with powerful performance and security features, the e-Vectra was designed to simplify and redefine the commercial-computing environment. In February 2000, Miller/Shandwick Technologies (M/ST), the specialist technology consultancy of Weber Shandwick Worldwide in Singapore, was engaged to manage the Asia-Pacific launch of the e-Vectra, held in Singapore.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
- Build excitement about HP’s entry into the corporate PC appliance space
- Establish HP’s position as one of the first IT vendors to announce the PC appliance concept
- Increase media awareness about the emerging corporate PC appliance market
- Align e-Vectra messages with overall “HP Invent” and e-Services strategies
Compaq, IBM and Dell had already announced their respective PC appliances. With US and Europe coverage about these PC appliances filtering through to Asia Pacific, HP needed to prove that the e-Vectra was a cut above the competition.
The e-Vectra needed to be positioned carefully to avoid speculation that HP’s Vectra line of traditional corporate desktops would be discontinued.
As the e-Vectra unit would be displayed with the ultra-slim HP monitor during the launch, it was imperative that the media understand the attractive price tag of under US$600 was for the e-Vectra alone, excluding the monitor (which cost approximately US$800).
The media were jaded with product launches and press conferences in general, especially run-of-the-mill events. With numerous events taking place every day, and many trade media facing a shortage of journalists (many had left to join dot.coms), the media were extremely selective in attending events.
The e-Vectra launch was organised under extreme time constraint. HP appointed us to manage the launch approximately two weeks before the official launch date of 23 February 2000.
In light of these challenges, we decided a creative launch concept was needed. From an internal brainstorm, we developed a “marriage” theme symbolising the union between the traditional desktop PC and web appliance. The concept involved staging the product launch as a piece of live theatre, featuring a marriage sketch involving two Singaporean comedians, Norlinah and Kumar. As the groom, “Hugh”, Norlinah would personify the solid and dependable qualities of a traditional desktop, while Kumar (Singapore’s most famous drag-queen) would take the role of the bride, “Patrina”, emphasising the sleek and savvy characteristics of a web appliance.
Such a concept was not only unique and refreshing for Singaporean journalists, it was also a new and bold approach in line with HP’s overall global “Invent” strategy.
Media programme: We ensured all aspects of the media event tied in with the “marriage theme”. The media were sent a “teaser” wedding invitation card with tongue-in-cheek text; the only hint of HP’s involvement was the HP logo at the back. The media were divided into two groups – one group received cards from “Hugh”; the second group received cards from “Patrina”. We also prepared media talking points, key messages and media briefs for the HP spokespersons, and secured local quotes from HP e-Vectra partners for the press release.
Theatre: We commissioned and worked closely with a local drama company, Theatreworks, to develop the script, and ensure it incorporated the e-Vectra messages. On launch day, the media arrived as wedding guests, but not knowing what else to expect. The venue was decorated to resemble a real marriage registry with two sections – the waiting area with the e-Vectra taking centrestage and a registry complete with wedding pews. Two senior HP executives also took on roles in the sketch, with one taking on the guise of a marriage counsellor and the other the marriage registrar - with their speaking points on the e-Vectra scripted accordingly. The event ended on a high note with the wedding march, and the journalists throwing confetti on the happy couple as they walked down the aisle. As mementoes, attendees were given wedding chocolates and could take Polaroid photographs of themselves with Kumar and Norlinah.
The marriage concept was extremely successful in generating media interest in HP’s e-Vectra, with the drama driving home the key message of the e-Vectra as a device combining the best of both worlds. It also generated significant talkability among the media about HP’s inventive and creative approach to its business.
Despite the fact that other IT vendors had also organised product launches during the same week, there was excellent attendance by media and analysts. A total of 27 journalists attended the event, more than twice the usual attendance at IT press conferences in Singapore. We also secured high-profile regional coverage incorporating e-Vectra key messages, generating more than 20 positive clippings in total.