Sapphire: An Uncovered Gem
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Holmes Report

Sapphire: An Uncovered Gem

Peppercom faced a big challenge in launching Sapphire. The major one was how to create a positive image for a company that had either no reputation at all or a highly negative one.

Paul Holmes

Peppercom faced a big challenge in launching Sapphire. The major one was how to create a positive image for a company that had either no reputation at all or a highly negative one. Hindered by the misfortune of being mistaken for either a toy company or one known for a prototypical corporate malfeasance scandal, Tyco needed to bridge the gap between the popular perceptions of its past and the reality of what it is today: a successful company focused on growth, excellence and innovation.

Sapphire is a product of Tyco Safety Products, a business unit of Tyco Fire and Security, one of the five main businesses of Tyco. It is a breakthrough fire suppression technology that utilizes 3M’s Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid. Sapphire looks exactly like water, but causes no water-like damage to electronics, books, artworks, irreplaceable artifacts and other critical business assets. These unique properties provide the ideal solution for hospitals, museums, libraries, telecommunications centers and other facilities seeking to protect critical assets that could be damaged by ordinary water- or chemical-based fire suppression systems.

Tyco’s previous attempt to launch Sapphire, at the end of 2003, was met with minimal media or marketing success. Subsequently, Peppercom was brought on board to get the media interested in the product and to highlight the advanced technology behind Sapphire.

During the research and planning process for Sapphire’s re-launch, Peppercom discovered that the largest library fire in U.S. history occurred in April 1986 at the Los Angeles Central Library. Of the 1.7 million books lost as a result of the conflagration, 700,000 of them were destroyed by water damage.

To draw attention to Sapphire’s ability to eliminate the water damage associated with fires, Peppercom chose to hold the press briefing on April 14. That date, as well as the anniversary of the Los Angeles Central Library fire, occurred a few days before National Library Week. This coincidence served as an unofficial declaration to remember this tragic occurrence – one that would have been prevented with Sapphire. To emphasize the theme, the briefing was held at the Library Hotel in midtown Manhattan, steps away from the Beaux Arts splendor of the New York Public Library.

The Tyco brand awareness campaign had two objectives. One was to communicate the key messages that Tyco is a successful company focused on growth, excellence and innovation. The other was to raise awareness among consumers, investors and the media of this breakthrough fire suppression technology.

The objectives were met with a series of strategic moves aimed at introducing Sapphire to as many people as possible at the same time. Peppercom invited both national and foreign press based in New York City and the tri-state area to the Library Hotel press briefing. Also invited were publications in the vertical markets that Sapphire targets, such as data centers, facilities management, telecommunications, hospitals, and cultural institutions such as libraries and museums.

Peppercom also chose to make the press briefing interactive. This enabled the media to dive in, get their feet wet, and come away with a clear understanding of the advanced technology behind Sapphire. Knowing that Sapphire is a technology that needs to be seen to be believed, Peppercom arranged for briefing attendees to participate in the demonstrations of Sapphire’s abilities. The demonstrations involved submerging cell phones, books, and water color paintings in Sapphire.

Some brave members of the media threw in their notepads and watched in amazement as the pages dried instantly without a single smudge. In addition to the media being able to try the technology first-hand, this press event served to humanize Tyco. It put faces and names to the people behind the innovations that represented the real Tyco, and showed that the company was worth writing about for good reasons.

Even before the event, Peppercom worked to seed media interest. As a result of Peppercom’s active encouragement, ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, CNBC’s Bullseye and the New York Post aired or published stories before April 14. By allowing selected media to break the story prior to the event, Peppercom created “buzz” about Sapphire that added to its success.

That success was apparent at the actual briefing, from which Sapphire received additional media attention. Just a sampling of the coverage included Sapphire’s being featured in national publications such as The New York Times; wire services such as The Associated Press; international publications such as Nikkei and Membrana; firefighting trades such as Firewatch; and local broadcast stations around the nation. Nearly all of the media results that Peppercom obtained focused solely on the product and technology. The Sapphire launch had been successful in shifting the public’s perception of the company. No longer was Tyco equated with “scandal.” Instead, Tyco is equated with “innovation.”

Sapphire maintained its sparkle well after the launch. Sapphire continued to earn excellent media coverage in publications such as the New York Times Magazine and the Chicago Tribune. It was also honored with some of the most impressive awards of the year, such as a “Best of What’s New” Award from Popular Science and a TIME Magazine “Coolest Invention” Award.

The success of the public relations campaign was also seen in Sapphire’s sales results. Tyco Safety Products received more sales leads in a 24-hour period (April 13 and 14) than it had from December 2003 through early April 2004. In fact, Tyco’s Web site was so flooded with leads that the company was forced to rebuild the site’s infrastructure! One sale alone, for $100,000, was directly attributable to the media results. Sales leads continue to roll in with a momentum that shows no sign of slowing down. The Sapphire launch was an all-around success.

 It sparked extensive media coverage, sales leads for Sapphire, and most importantly, an ability to bring forward Tyco’s innovation and technology while pushing the scandal out of the picture.

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