Relaunching a Dot-Com Into a Sleeping Industry
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Relaunching a Dot-Com Into a Sleeping Industry, an online gift site targeted toward the business professional, moved forward with their business model and re-launched their company as

Paul Holmes, an online gift site targeted toward the business professional, moved forward with their business model and re-launched their company as  Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide/Los Angeles counseled and led the company into a strategically focused launch through tradeshows supported by aggressive media relations and an analyst tour. 

Launched in July 1999, was the first e-commerce site tailored exclusively to the needs of the business professional wanting to purchase appropriate business gifts for customers and colleagues.  Following successes including doubling its web site traffic, being named by Forbes Magazine as the “best business gift site,” and expanding its staff from 50 to more than 100 in less than a year, entered the corporate incentive and reward market—an industry rooted in a deep slumber.  With its new online business motivation product offerings, re-launched its entire company, embarked on a business-to-business focus and enlisted Ogilvy PR/Los Angeles for strategic counsel and launch support.

Officially launched on June 26, 2000, felt their company name carried too heavy of an association to “gifts”, as opposed to their new product offering.  The newly developed name,, still had a noted semblance to, yet it conveyed a message beyond gifts. offered an easier way for companies to retain and reward employees, business partners and customers by delivering comprehensive online incentive and reward applications, superior merchandise and unparalleled service to the industry. 


The goal of the public relations campaign was to develop a customer base of incentive program users.  In order to achieve this goal, objectives were:

  • Promote the availability of an easier, cost-efficient solution for incentive and rewards programs
  • Differentiate online programs from offline programs
  • Develop as a company that exists to make program administrators’ lives easier
  • Position as an expert in the corporate incentive and reward industry with human resource managers
  • Introduce to business-to-business technology analysts and trade media


Ogilvy PR’s research findings qualified a need for’s entrance into the incentive industry market, one that was defined as starved for technology.’s target market (which includes human resources professionals, sales professionals and management) was anxious for a more cost-effective solution to what they currently managed.

Market research findings confirmed that the corporate reward and incentive industry was fragmented yet worth $30 billion, with four major offline players holding 10 percent of the market share.  Nearly 80 percent of the market self administrates their program—also offline.  And the average spent on incentive sales programs was about $2,000 per person.  Furthermore, companies that use incentive programs boost sales by almost 20 percent. 

Additional research confirmed that 66 percent of human resource managers were worried about employee retention while 56 percent of employees cited that they didn’t feel that their companies genuinely cared about them.  In addition, another 55 percent said that they didn’t have a strong loyalty to their own company.


  • Position the incentive industry to be highly lucrative, yet technologically-challenged
  • Develop an identity for, as an evolution of
  • Launch at a heavily trafficked, key industry trade show utilizing creative, fun promotions to make them stand out from the clutter of offline incentive companies 
  • Position as the first fully-integrated online player in this market
  • Leverage trade show event tactics to gain pertinent trade media attention


  • Human resource and sales and marketing professionals
  • Analysts and media


Ogilvy PR developed a comprehensive press kit including the general lead release, incentive industry fact sheet, company backgrounder and executive management bios.  To further enhance capabilities and strengthen its image to the press and analysts, a release on Bravanta’s seven-state sales force expansion was included in the press materials.

SOFT LAUNCH: In May, six weeks before the official launch, previewed their proprietary online incentive program, Rewarding Work™ to incentive trade media at the Premium Incentive Show in New York to start communication with these key trades.  Ogilvy PR arranged media appointments prior to and at the show and followed up post-meeting to provide additional information on the forthcoming launch.  

ANALYST TOUR: With a plethora of fledgling dot coms headlining news stories, it was a challenge setting appointments with disenchanted analysts who were weary of yet another dot com changing its business model and name.  Ogilvy PR overcame analyst skepticism and was successful in booking appointments for two reasons:

  • Ogilvy PR was strategic in differentiating from other dot coms by making it a hard-hitting point that it was always part of the company’s original business model to enter the corporate and incentive market.  
  • Ogilvy PR emphasized that the corporate incentive industry was virtually untouched by technology and’s entrance into the industry was similar to a sleeping giant waking up.  

Ogilvy PR approached analysts carefully and diligently by building relationships with each one.  On behalf of, Ogilvy initiated introductions by e-mail first then succinctly tailored pitches to each individual analyst.  

HARD LAUNCH: made its presence known to the attendees of the Society for Human Resource Management Show (SHRM) in Las Vegas with several key promotions.  Hitting their target of human resource professionals, offered limousine rides from the airport to the hotel, distributed ice-cold water in the sweltering Las Vegas heat, threw a “birthday party” with cake at the company’s booth, handed out gift bags to 2,000 SHRM attendees and ran a spa getaway weekend contest worth $2,500.

Prior to SHRM, Ogilvy PR produced and distributed media packages containing a birth announcement, chocolate cigars and booth party invitation to target HR media. 


At a time where business to consumer dot coms were on the verge of death, Ogilvy PR got through the negative publicity through strategic positioning of as an online company with a sound, targeted business plan.  Another concern during the launch of at the SHRM show was that human resource managers would not understand and would resist the technology of bringing incentive programs online, traditionally an offline component of their job.  Because ease-of-use was the emphasis of bringing incentive and rewards programs online, this theme of making human resource managers lives easier was emphasized by providing free limousine rides and iced water and offering the chance to win a spa getaway.

EVALUATION/MEASUREMENT OF SUCCESS came away from the SHRM show having awakened the industry with a loud bang by introducing their products and services.  The promotion ran coincided with their product theme of making it easier for human resource managers to reward and retain their employees by utilizing them as an example of what it feels like to be treated well and valued by a company. left Las Vegas with more than 2,000 qualified sales leads--more are still filtering in--and gushing compliments from human resource managers about how easy it was to apply their online solution to their jobs.
Ogilvy PR also secured meetings with six analysts prior to the SHRM show and continued its success by securing interviews with the Wall Street Journal, Upside, Information Week, Interactive Week.  Since their launch, has been featured in key trade publications including The Meeting Professional, Incentive Magazine, Meetings & Conventions, Sales & Marketing Strategies & News, Corporate Meetings & Incentives and Potentials.  At SHRM, appointments were booked with every major human resource, sales and marketing and incentive trade media. 

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