Putting a Finger on BioMetrics
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Putting a Finger on BioMetrics

Using your fingerprint to unlock critical data from your computer may seem like a scene out of a James Bond thriller but by mid-2000, start-up company Who?Vision was ready to launch a fingerprint biometric product for laptops to meet the security needs of

Paul Holmes

  Using your fingerprint to unlock critical data from your computer may seem like a scene out of a James Bond thriller but by mid-2000, start-up company Who?Vision was ready to launch a fingerprint biometric product for laptops to meet the security needs of corporations.  Backed by investors such as Phillips and Safeguard Scientifics, Who?Vision had created the first biometric PCMCIA card for laptops that was small, durable, reliable and inexpensive¾not just a “prototype” that would never be shipped  to customers.  Unfortunately, the company had already lost credibility for taking four years to bring the product to market.  The media and technology analysts were skeptical of biometrics in general because so many products had failed in the last 25 years.  Ketchum worked with the company to change its name, move beyond the cynicism and demonstrate the power of biometrics with the launch of Ethentica’s new product, the Ethenticator MS 3000, a fingerprint-biometric based PCMCIA card for laptops that would make cumbersome and insecure passwords for accessing data and web transactions a thing of the past, at PC Expo in New York in June 2000.  The team developed a strategy to illustrate the need for biometrics security products in business through the Ethenticator MS 3000.
 
RESEARCH
 
PRIMARY RESEARCH: IT Surveys: Two IT surveys were conducted to gather critical data for Ethentica’s story¾demonstrating that most IT security decision makers are unhappy with current solutions like passwords and digital certificates.  Result: Validated business model with proof points (80 percent of computer users choose simple, predictable passwords; annual cost per user per password for a corporation is $300), provided direction for launch messaging (“trust,” “simplicity, “outsourcing,” “cost savings,” “infrastructure support,” “portable security” themes), and generated a news hook for the launch (“Survey Results Highlight Frustrations about Digital Security”).  Technology Analyst Audit: The team identified the key biometric and mobile computing analysts and conducted an audit to determine what they saw as critical factors for success.  Result: Garnered information for messaging and laid groundwork for a successful analyst tour in late summer following PC Expo.
 
SECONDARY RESEARCH: Media Research: The team researched past coverage of PC Expo as well as critical reporters covering biometrics, mobile computing, security and emerging technologies to create a focused media list.  Result: A targeted media list that produced successful story placement.  Safeguard Scientific Media Research: By mid-2000, launching a start-up was difficult because of the excessive “noise” in the technology media space created by PR professionals bombarding reporters.  The Ethentica team broke through the clutter by researching media that covers Safeguard Scientifics, the main incubator of Ethentica, as well as respected by the business community and publicly traded on the NYSE.  Result: Expanded media list by focusing on key business reporters; key stories on outlets such as CNBC and CNN-FN.  Staying On Top of Trends Through Daily Media Monitoring: To keep up-to-speed on the latest trends and issues in biometrics and technology in general, the team conducted daily media monitoring to ensure it would be able to tailor story pitches to the most relevant news.  Result:  Adapted pitches to focus on “convenience” and “privacy” for security products¾topics quite popular in the media prior to PC Expo.
 
PLANNING
 
OBJECTIVES:  1) Create an awareness for the need for biometrics security products in business through the launch of the Ethenticator MS 3000; 2) Introduce company under new name to financial community.
 
CHALLENGES: 1) Biometric products have a long history of failure¾media and analysts were cynical; 2) Media had grown weary of the constant barrage of communications from start-ups; 3) The company was renaming itself, announcing its first product and introducing its business model focused on e-security¾too much to announce and too confusing; 4) The product would not be available before PC Expo for standard long-lead review programs. 
 
STRATEGIES: 1) Change the company’s name to distance itself from the past failures; 2) Leverage credibility of parent incubator Safeguard Scientifics to overcome media cynicism; 3) Focus on the tangible¾the Ethenticator MS 3000¾not future plans; 4) Use only live demos to show product works, thus shaking off biometric failure reputation; 5) Demonstrate the need for the Ethenticator MS 3000 through IT survey; 6) Align product with large brand names through key partnerships (see Advisory Council).  AUDIENCE: Security decision makers: Chief Technology Officers, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Executive Officers; the financial community, key partners, employees, technology analysts. 
 
MESSAGES: The Ethenticator MS 3000 is the first-ever touch verification (fingerprint-biometric) product that eliminates the need for passwords in the growing area of mobile computing and commerce.  Ethentica provides solutions that: 1) ARE EASY: IT Decision-Makers Want The Easy Solutions Ethentica Provides; 2) ASSIST WITH OUTSOURCING: Most Companies Lack Necessary Resources¾Expertise, Time, Manpower¾To Improve Authentication Security And Are Looking For Outsourcing Solutions; 3) PROVIDE COST SAVINGS: Authentication Management By Ethentica Delivers Real And Immediate Cost Savings For Any eBusiness With Authentication Needs; 4) CREATE TRUST: Both End-Users And eBusinesses Trust Ethentica Because Its Solutions Are Built On Protecting Individual Identity And Ensuring Privacy; 5)BUILD INFRASTRUCTURE: Ethentica Creates The Infrastructure Necessary To Expand eBusiness Through Its Unique Patent-Pending Technology That Makes Interoperability Among Different Types (e.g. digital certificates, biometrics, etc.) And Brands (e.g. Verisign and Baltimore) Of Authentication Products Easier and Cost-Effective; 6) ARE SECURE AND PORTABLE: Today Individual’s Digital Identities Are Not Safe Or Portable Residing On A Personal Computer or Laptop¾Ethentica Provides A Secure Distributed Server-Based Solution For Managing Authentication
 
EXECUTION
 
Challenge: Biometrics products have a long history of failure – media and analysts were cynical.
During its planning stage, the team conducted an audit of biometric and mobile computing analysts to determine the critical success factors analysts deemed necessary for a company in their respective industries. With this information, the team tailored its messages and laid the groundwork for an analyst tour following PC Expo with Forrester Research, IDC, Aberdeen Group, The Yankee Group, The Tower Group and The Omni Group.  To combat media and analyst cynicism of biometrics products, the team invited key media and analysts to test the Ethenticator MS 3000, live at PC Expo
 
By registering media “identities” in live and on-camera interviews, many reporters were convinced that biometrics were a reality.  The simplicity of replacing multiple usernames and passwords with the touch of a finger to access computer data and websites encouraged reporters to participate in future reviews of the product.  Reporters were encouraged that biometrics products could be adopted in business because the PC Card made accessing information on a computer network or on the Internet as easy as pushing a button.  So convinced of the power of biometrics, the Ethenticator MS 3000 was named a finalist in both the CNET and ZDNET-sponsored PC Expo “Best of Show” and “Best of Mobile” award competitions.
 
Challenge: Media had grown weary of the constant barrage of communications from start-ups.  From its research, the team knew it would be a challenge to grab media’s attention at such a large tradeshow, so it first researched past coverage of the event as well as reporters and outlets regularly covering biometrics, security, emerging technology and mobile computing during its planning to develop a targeted media list.  Additionally, reporters regularly covering Safeguard Scientifics, a publicly traded company, were also identified.  The team leveraged Safeguard’s name to open the door to business media, landing an interview for Safeguard CEO Pete Musser on CNBC “Power Lunch.” 
 
The proprietary research the team compiled by surveying IT security decision makers, was developed into a news hook, further distinguishing Ethentica’s news announcements at the tradeshow.  The team also decided it had to align the unknown product with well-known brands.  To achieve this goal, the Ethenticator MS 3000 was featured in a Satellite Media Tour alongside products from Toshiba and Hewlett Packard.  Challenge: The company was renaming itself, announcing its first product and introducing its business model focused on e-security – too much to announce and too confusing.  Since Ethentica was making numerous messages at PC Expo, the team decided that the more focused its message with media, the better chance it would have for results.  The team simplified its message with media – focusing on the Ethenticator MS 3000, pitching media the product and the promises for the adoption of biometrics products in business.  In addition to having to share multiple messages, Ethentica had a number of audiences to address including IT security decision makers, the financial community, partners and analysts.  Using the media as a conduit to share its messages, the team coordinated a webcast e-package to disseminate news releases, graphics, and b-roll via the Internet to media. 
 
To accommodate audiences not attending PC Expo, a news conference was conducted simultaneously from the floor of the tradeshow and via the Internet, while a separate information package was distributed to company “friends and family.”  Challenge: The product would not be available for standard long-lead review programs.   Since the Ethenticator MS 300 was not available for beta testing at long-lead technology outlets, the team coordinated Ethentica’s participation in a PC Expo Satellite Media Tour hosted by BusinessWeek editor, Steve Wildstrom.  During the tour and on the show floor, the PC Card was demonstrated live, highlighting the power of biometrics versus cumbersome username and passwords.  However, during pre-show media pitches, the team learned that media wanted to know more about the product before committing to visiting the company’s tradeshow booth.  To pique interest, a creative mailer for technology reporters was devised, featuring a “Wow” machine – a battery-operated device embedded with the same fingerprint-biometric technology as the PC Card. Following the event, the PC Cards were distributed to a number of technology reporters and editors for testing/reviews.
 
EVALUATION
 
Objective 1: Create an awareness for the need for biometrics security products in business through the launch of the Ethenticator MS 3000 RESULTS: Media coverage in target outlets: 202,490,478 impressions in publications reaching target audience, including coverage in CNET, Wired and Time Digital (37 Broadcast, 16 Print and 27 Online Hits); more than 75 live demonstrations on-camera and on the floor of the tradeshow; more than half of the print articles directly reached IT security decision makers – a major target audience; successful analyst tour (Meetings with Forrester Research, IDC, Aberdeen Group, The Tower Group, The Yankee Group and The Omni Group); CNET PC Expo “Best of Show” and “Best of Mobile” category award finalist and ZDNet Award Finalist; as demonstrated in print/online media coverage, more than 51 published reiterations of Ethentica’s key message – biometrics products are easy to use, provide cost savings, and are secure and portable. 
 
Objective 2: Introduce company under new name to financial community RESULTS: Coverage in critical business media including CNBC “Power Lunch”, Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg TV, Dow Jones News Service and Time Digital; additional $10 million in funding from Safeguard Scientifics as result of impression made at PC Expo.
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