Just three months before Kyocera Wireless Corp. (KWC) launched its first and most important product ever, the company asked Fleishman-Hillard (FH) to turn the QCP 6035 smartphone – a combination of a wireless phone and a Palm-based personal digital assistant (PDA) - into one of the hottest, most demanded products of 2001.
FH did exactly that, allowing KWC to:
- Infiltrate the wireless handset market and stake a claim, something that is next to impossible in a market segment that is highly competitive, brand loyal and leery of new players.
- Raise awareness of the product to such a level that Fortune/CNET gave it the “Editor’s Choice Award” in its Summer 2001 issue and even Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal proclaimed, “If you long to merge your phone and your Palm, it may be just what you’re looking for.” Between Sept. 2000 and Sept. 2001, FH successfully placed well over 300 positive stories in print, resulting in more than 300 million impressions. Broadcast and online impressions increase this number dramatically.
- Capture a 9 percent market share, up from 2.7 percent – an amazing 200 percent increase in less than a year.
- Dramatically exceed internal sales forecasts for the QCP 6035, with the phone ultimately representing nearly 10 percent of the company’s total product mix – more than double initial forecasts.
Despite being an $8 billion company, Japan’s Kyocera Corp. ranked in the bottom 5 percent for brand awareness of Japanese companies in the U.S. Such was the backdrop when Kyocera Corp. acquired Qualcomm’s terrestrial CDMA handset division (which had a 2.7 percent share of the total wireless handset market) and formed San Diego-based KWC. After six months of virtual silence, KWC turned to FH in late-Aug. 2000 with a fascinating, unprecedented new product and little else.
The product, a convergence of a wireless phone and a Palm OS-based personal digital assistant (PDA), would be the centerpiece of Kyocera’s product line, but few understood it. With only three months before the product’s launch, FH was tasked with simultaneously creating a new wireless technology category, creating corporate brand recognition where there was none, and launching a successful wireless device.
The launch of the Kyocera QCP 6035 smartphone was far more than just a product launch – it was the chance to put KWC on the wireless industry’s map. To pull this off, a whirlwind of trade shows, press tours and proactive outreach had to happen between the product’s Nov. 27 announcement and its March 5 appearance on retail shelves.
FH used extensive research to shape messaging and target market segments. The research fell into three categories: general, brand, and product-specific. General market research showed a robust, growing wireless market, promising more than 1.6 billion cellular/PCS subscribers by 2004 (Dataquest). Dataquest also predicted a 28.2 percent compound annual growth in production of CDMA handsets (the wireless protocol in which KWC phones operate, used by Verizon, Sprint PCS, and others). Support from numerous analysts and industry experts supported this data.
For brand research, FH and KWC surveyed consumers to determine attitudes toward existing wireless handset brands and the Kyocera corporate brand. Results showed Kyocera having virtually no consumer brand recognition, with one study ranking them 48th out of 50 Japanese brands in the U.S. It became clear that FH could not count on the Kyocera brand to carry the QCP 6035 to market, and that the QCP 6035’s success would be the key factor in establishing the overall Kyocera brand and the company in general.
Finally, FH surveyed 300 consumers on competing products and their likes/dislikes in wireless handsets to find out their current brands of phones, what features they looked for, where and why they purchased their current phones, and what two phone brands came to mind when they thought of wireless phones. In the end, all research showed that the QCP 6035 launch campaign should focus on classic “early adopters” and business users, and that there was a great demand for a product with the QCP 6035’s capabilities.
Because the product would be announced on Nov. 27, 2000, but not in retail stores until March 5, 2001, FH planned a multi-tiered launch campaign with the following objectives:
- Create an enormous “buzz” around the product, leading to an explosion in demand for the product when it hit retail;
- Begin establishing KWC as a major category player and an industry leader in the area of converged technology; and
- After March 5, use subsequent efforts built on this early momentum to maintain high consumer demand for the product.
FH’s first step in the plan involved teasing the phone’s arrival by announcing that KWC had licensed the Palm operating system (indicating a Palm-based wireless phone was in the works). FH’s strategy for the QCP 6035 launch centered on hands-on product demonstrations for high-profile influencers (the analyst community, technology trade press and business media). The plan revolved around five trade shows and two press tours between Sept. 2000 and March 2001 (with meetings prior to Nov. held under NDA):
•Sept. – PCIA GlobalXchange show (Chicago)
•Oct. – Long-lead press tour (SF, NY, DC, Boston)
•Oct. – CDMA Americas Congress (San Diego)
•Nov. – Mobile Focus (Las Vegas)
•Nov. – Short-lead press tour (Denver, SF, NY)
•Dec. – PalmSource (San Jose)
•Jan. – CES (Las Vegas)
•March – CTIA show (Las Vegas)
Also key was a major media push on the Nov. 27 launch day, including national print and broadcast outreach, new collateral materials and b-roll. Beyond in-person meetings, FH planned a major “review campaign,” in which late-beta and early-production QCP 6035s were sent to analysts, and all of the nations top gadget reviewers (who weren’t seen during the aforementioned events). These included reviewers for CNET, Fortune, Rolling Stone, and more.
While the QCP 6035 would not be commercially available until March 2001, FH recommended announcing the device in Nov. 2000 to drive pre-announcement press and awareness and freeze the market for the holiday season. FH then continued to spark interest through the March 2001 announcement. Along with the pre-announcement, FH also began outreaching to influential media, meeting with these key industry players at tradeshows and on tour. FH established a review program that allowed the QCP 6035 to be tested by industry influencers well before it was available to the public, allowing media to be the first with a great story and getting information about the QCP 6035 to the consumer.
FH’s face-to-face media campaign was well received, with more than 75 in-person meetings booked at trade shows or on press tours between Sept. 2000 and March 2001. A testament to this was at the PCS GlobalXchange show in Chicago. While KWC wasn’t exhibiting, FH recommended that PR representatives attend and managed to set 24 appointments (all of which were held in or around the show’s press room). Subsequent trade shows were equally fruitful, with many more appointments. FH also secured 32 briefings for long-lead and short-lead press tours. (Full media tour reports are in the execution section.)
FH also met great success with its QCP 6035 review program (as described above). To date, FH has fielded more than 200 requests for review units and proactively placed an additional 50 review units.
The campaign was a phenomenal success for KWC as it drove KWC to gain significant brand recognition and market share in a notoriously competitive market dominated by such household names as Nokia, Samsung, and Motorola.
In less than a year, KWC went from 2.7 percent to a 9 percent market share – a significant accomplishment.
The QCP 6035 launch campaign exceeded all of KWC’s sales forecasts, with the phone now representing nearly 10 percent of the company’s total product mix – more than double initial internal forecasts.
More than 300 positive stories in print were secured, resulting in more than 300 million consumer impressions. Positive feature stories also appeared in scores of online articles and broadcast pieces.
Coverage highlights included: Walt Mossberg’s column in the Wall Street Journal, a ¾-page photo in Newsweek’s Cyberscope, BusinessWeek (twice), Rolling Stone, Maxim, USA Today, Fortune, LA Times, CNN, CNET, Forbes, New York Times, and more. Fast Company published a 10-page article on the QCP 6035’s evolution from concept to production. FH even placed the phone as an example of futuristic wireless devices in World Book Encyclopedia’s 2002 Science Year.
Today, one year after the product announcement, FH still receives daily requests for QCP 6035 information, interviews, photos, and review units.
So great is the interest that a loyal user, completely unbeknownst to KWC, created “www.qcp6035.com” as a community site for enthusiastic users of the phone.
The phone has garnered numerous accolades from both industry and consumer entities, including The CDMA Development Group’s 3G Industry Achievement Award; CNET/Fortune’s 2001 Technology Round-up, Editor’s Choice; MobileFocus Product of the Year, Mobile Phone category; Consumer Reports’ #1 ranking in the PDA category; Wired Rave Awards – Finalist; and Frost & Sullivan’s 2001 Product Innovation Award.
In summary, the QCP 6035 was a groundbreaking product being introduced by a newly formed company with no experience in high-profile product launches. FH successfully counseled KWC through the process while creating a consumer brand, generating widespread consumer demand, driving phone sales far beyond KWC’s expectations, and creating a leadership position for KWC in the category.