Operation Geek Squad
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

Operation Geek Squad

Having recently purchased Geek Squad, an established Minneapolis-based 24-hour rapid response technical support service, Best Buy had an opportunity to differentiate itself by expanding this small, local, elite tech service nationwide.

Paul Holmes

Having recently purchased Geek Squad, an established Minneapolis-based 24-hour rapid response technical support service, Best Buy had an opportunity to differentiate itself by expanding this small, local, elite tech service nationwide. No other electronics/computer retailer could offer consumers truly nationwide multi-channel technology support (i.e. in store, in home, website and 800#).

The launch of Geek Squad—with its highly skilled Agents that conduct computer set up, repair and education—delivered on this need for superb customer service. To maintain Geek Squad’s unique brand, yet publicize it as a new customer service arm of Best Buy, this campaign could not look or sound like traditional mass marketing. The program—built to control and contain the story while driving trial and sales—was the antithesis of traditional public relations: don’t tell everyone… tell only a chosen few who will spread the word organically.

To accomplish this Ketchum stealthily infiltrated the launch markets, raising Geek Squad awareness by pitching exclusives to media where Geek Squad brand identity and story could best be showcased; executing guerilla-marketing tactics in select markets that reflected the brand’s quirkiness while sparking consumer curiosity; and finding potential users and recommenders of Geek Squad services in every market to drive trial and generate word-of-mouth buzz. With the Geek Squad secret out and nearly all local markets “live,” the team then shifted from a local to a national campaign focus, and successfully differentiated Geek Squad as the only truly national 24-hour rapid response technical support service available in the U.S. The team’s “need to know” strategy drove awareness and trial in each of the 45 markets, and protected the brand identity and customer service reputation of Geek Squad nationwide.

Ketchum’s main objectives were to: drive trial and sales of in-home and in-store Geek Squad services in each of the 45 markets, measured by the number of service orders completed, raise Geek Squad awareness – meet or beat a 6 percent awareness level in each of the 45 launch markets, protect the established brand identity of Geek Squad while introducing it as a new customer service unit of Best Buy and differentiate Geek Squad as the only multi-channel 24-hour rapid response technical support service available nationwide

Ketchum’s main strategies included: select and pitch exclusives to media where the Geek Squad brand identity and story could best be showcased, develop and execute local market events that reflect the Geek Squad brand quirkiness and spark consumer curiosity and find potential users and recommenders of Geek Squad services in every market to drive trial and generate word-of-mouth buzz.

The PR team’s main messages were: Geek Squad is the only truly national multi-channel 24-hour rapid response technical support service available in the U.S., Geek Squad Precincts are located in all Best Buy stores nationwide, Geek Squad services are available by calling 1-800-GEEKSQUAD, logging onto www.geeksquad.com or visiting a local, Geek Squad services are available in-home and in-store and Geek Squad is not limited to break-and fix, but also offers set-up and computer training

To ensure consistent messaging, brand identity, and to build unity within the ranks of newly deputized Geek Squad Agents, Ketchum conducted 52 half-day training sessions in 38 cities for 340 Agents prior to “go live” dates in each market, and a “mass training” for 120 additional Agents in Minneapolis. Specialized training and ongoing support was extended to six additional NY and LA Agents who continue to field national media opportunities and Ketchum pitched launch exclusives to select print, TV and radio outlets prior to “going live” in each market, followed by additional outreach to all local media during the national media campaign.

With nearly all of the regional markets “live,” Ketchum launched a national media campaign with Geek Squad Chief Inspector Robert Stephens that targeted national broadcast, print, and long-lead consumer publications—with an emphasis on non-traditional outlets for the brand such as mainstream men’s and women’s books, and entertainment and morning talk shows.

Ketchum then executed a day of national broadcast and print media interviews with Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson and Geek Squad Chief Inspector Robert Stephens, culminating in the ringing of the closing bell by the two executives and nine Geek Squad Agents. Ketchum developed an educational platform titled “The Technology User’s Bill of Rights” that showed people how to co-exist peacefully with their personal technology. Educational materials, including a CD-ROM, were made available in all Best Buy stores and at www.geeksquad.com.

To generate word-of-mouth buzz, local Ketchum teams identified 1,240 “influential” individuals to receive an “Advance Reconnaissance Offer” —a complimentary Geek Squad service. Influencer kits containing a coupon for free in-home services were delivered within each of the 45 launch markets. With all of the markets “live,” Ketchum and Ketchum Entertainment Marketing threw a Geek Squad party in Los Angeles attended by some of Hollywood’s most desirable geeks, celebrities, agents, managers, studio executives and other Los Angeles-based influencers and entertainment media to celebrate Geek Squad’s 10th Anniversary, the return of “geeky-cool,” and the launch of Geek Squad nationwide.

While actual sales data are proprietary and cannot be shared, since launch, scheduled in-home Geek Squad service visits exceeded projections by 73 percent. In-home revenue exceeded fiscal year forecasts by 5.6 percent. Since launch, in-store Geek Squad service visits exceeded projections by 6 percent. In-store revenue exceeded fiscal year forecasts by 17 percent.

Between April 5 and November 30, 2004, awareness of Geek Squad rose to 11 percent in markets tested—exceeding Best Buy’s 6 percent “meet or beat” goal by 5 percent. Seventy-eight percent of those aware substantiate their awareness by playing back one or more service benefits—primarily that the Geek Squad fixes computer problems (48 percent say fix in general, 28 percent say fix in-home/business/on-site.)

Between April 5 and November 30, the team achieved its goal of securing one targeted Geek Squad placement in all 45 launch markets—593 Geek Squad news stories have reached more than 55.5 million* consumers (* This figure does not include multipliers)

Geek Squad features include MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News Channel, CNN Headline News, E! Entertainment Television, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Financial Times, U.S. News & World Report, Fortune, Parents, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Fitness, Working Mother, and US Weekly—reaching Geek Squad “bull’s-eye” target audiences in more non-traditional, mainstream consumer/lifestyle and entertainment media outlets, versus straight tech publications (a goal for Geek Squad), ultimately broadening the Geek Squad reach

The Geek Squad Agents performed 53 in-home service visits regionally. Ninety percent of influencers surveyed reported they would recommend Geek Squad to a friend and/or use Geek Squad services in the future. More than 258,500 individuals viewed

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