Letting the Cat Out of the Bag
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Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

The B-M/D:C team’s core objective was quite clear: Accelerate adoption of :CRQ software and :CueCat devices into wired homes.

Paul Holmes

 

Digital:Convergence (D:C) set out to change how consumers navigate the Web.  The company’s :CRQ™ (“See Our Cue”) technology links traditional media – both print and broadcast – to relevant pages on the Internet.  The company’s business model is based on selling “cues” (a coding method that enables this Internet link) to companies who wish to realize their full Internet potential.  In order to make these cues valuable, D:C needed to embark on one of the largest and fastest consumer deployments of a technology in history.  D:C enlisted Burson-Marsteller (B-M) to educate consumers and accelerate the free deployment of its :CRQ software and the :CueCat device, a handheld scanner that reads all product codes and D:C’s “cue” codes, to American consumers nationwide.  The differentiating aspects of the :CueCat device and :CRQ software are its 1) zero cost to the consumer, 2) ease of use and 3) limitless applications.

OBJECTIVES/AUDIENCE

The B-M/D:C team’s core objective was quite clear:  Accelerate adoption of :CRQ software and :CueCat devices into wired homes.   Through media partners (such as Forbes and Wired) and retail partner RadioShack, the ongoing goal is to distribute approximately 30 million :CueCat devices and :CRQ CD-Roms to consumers by the end of 2001. Our charge was to encourage subscribers of media partners to install the program and to motivate mass consumers to visit RadioShack and pick up their free :CueCat device.  Since :CRQ technology links to relevant pages deep within a company’s Web site, any American with a computer and Internet access is a target.  However, with new technologies, B-M advised D:C of the importance of reaching early adopters before moving to mass consumers in an accelerated timeframe.

RESEARCH/PLANNING

In order to develop the right messaging and rollout strategy, B-M compiled a thorough media and analyst audit and analysis to understand the competitive landscape and opportunities for differentiation. The team gleaned that D:C’s differentiation was its convergence of information vs. convergence of technology.  While the marketplace was talking about web-enabled and personalized television, we recognized the power of having an immediate, free and easy-to-use application of convergence that all consumers could afford and use.   

We also needed to “clarify the problem” that D:C’s technology solves – specifically, proving that consumers were frustrated with Web navigation.  Until now, they had two unsatisfactory choices for searching on the Web – they could 1) enter from the front page and hope to find what they were looking for, or 2) use a search engine and be sent in the right direction.  D:C had its own proprietary information that showed consumer frustration in navigating the Web and wanted a technology that enhanced their current lifestyle with little investment. One of the most insightful studies the team uncovered was from Bright Planet, who estimated that there were more than 550 billion documents stored on the Web and search engines only indexed one billion of them.  

Lastly, B-M knew it was critical to educate key opinion leaders.  As such, the team amassed secondary research, which validated the market opportunity, including percentage of wired homes with television and computers in the same room.

Strategy/Execution/Tactics

B-M’s pragmatic strategy was grounded in building endorsement for the product prior to launch.  First, we recognized the need to build vertical market endorsement prior to the consumer launch in September. For the first part of 2000, the team targeted key vertical markets and Internet influencers and focused on establishing D:C’s key executives as leaders in their respective fields.  Second, we moved from vertical to horizontal execution with a mass consumer education campaign that simply and clearly unfolded the various applications.  Our strategy leveraged the power of D:C partners and their brand equity while revealing the applications in tandem with actual partner deployment.  

After seeding the story with the vertical market and Internet economy groups, the team moved forward aggressively on consumer launch tactics:

D:C’s campaign started with the launch of Forbes’ “Best of the Web” issue, which contained both cue-enhanced articles and advertisements.  The team held launch parties in both New York (at the “Barcode” bar) and San Francisco (at Forbes headquarters), inviting current and prospective clients, media, analysts and thought leaders to get a sneak preview of the technology and aligning the D:C brand with Forbes.  

Next, B-M developed a media and analyst campaign that built branding and leveraged partners.  B-M developed a list of 1,500 reporters nationwide that would be interested in writing about the :CueCat from a number of angles.  B-M launched a mass mailing campaign, sending a five-part press kit to the media over the course of 2 months, introducing them to the technology. Each mailing was sent enclosed in a black container with a red stick-on address label, branding the company’s signature colors.

It’s Coming. An electronic and print teaser campaign

It’s Here. A large, pizza-size box that contained the technology along with several top-tier cued publications, including Forbes, Parade and the RadioShack catalog.  

It’s Wired. A smaller version of the box with Wired magazine’s first Internet-enhanced issue.

It’s House Trained. A large tube enclosed with a blueprint of all the home-based swipe/scanning applications.  

It Hears. A final box announcing the broadcast application (NBC is due to launch in mid 2001). The team aggressively followed up with each reporter and continues to demo the technology and fine tune story angles to meet their specific needs.  

Due to the technological nature of the story, we developed a video news release/b-roll that was distributed immediately prior to Labor Day weekend.  In addition, the team aggressively pursued radio interviews and marketing opportunities (e.g., offering free Cats to deejays for distribution) and was able to see a direct spike in RadioShack deployment as a result of these opportunities.  

OBSTACLES

The B-M/D:C team faced many of the challenges that come with launching a new technology.  First, individuals were skeptical of the technology, to which B-M aggressively communicated both the current and future applications (wireless, cell phone, key fob). Second, D:C had rushed to market with a time consuming and problematic installation CD.  B-M helped D:C realize the need for a new installation CD and advised a hold on launch communications until the new version was available.  Third, as the first mass communication effort launched, D:C’s Web site experienced a security breach, exposing approximately 140,000 member names. B-M’s issues management team counseled the client and managed negative reactions swiftly and aggressively.  Fourth, the week following the security breach, a privacy group issued a report questioning D:C’s collection of aggregate data on its members.  Again, B-M hit the ground running with an aggressive member and media communications outreach that quelled concerns, including revising privacy communications on the company’s Web site and reaching out to privacy influencers to build support. Finally, as a pre-IPO company who had filed an S1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, D:C had to comply with an enforceable quiet period, restricting B-M’s publicity efforts.

MEASUREMENT OF SUCCESS/RESULTS

Media. The agency successfully placed D:C stories in vertical market, Internet Economy and national media outlets. These media relations efforts were cited as primary reasons for potential customers to contact D:C and discuss the licensing of the technology. Members of D:C’s executive team have been quoted in the majority of the media placements and served as panelists at various summits and speaking forums including Stanford University, NATPE and the Myers Group.

Vertical Market – Adweek, Ad Age, Broadcasting News, Direct Marketing News

Internet Technology – CNET, [email protected] Week

National - USA Today, ABC’s “The View,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” Business Week, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News.

Retail.  B-M’s radio media success created immediate traffic increases to RadioShack stores and deployment of the technology on a market-by-market basis. Nationwide, RadioShack has distributed more than 1.9 million :CueCat devices, and since launch, they have enjoyed 900,000 visits to their website due to their Internet-enhanced catalog.
Consumer.  More importantly, in approximately 120 days since launch, more than 1.2 million consumers have installed :CRQ technology and hooked up the :CueCat device to their desktops. B-M, as the key communications partner for Digital:Convergence, is credited with increasing and accelerating these deployments.  

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