Zed Flirts with the Wirelessly Aware Generation
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Zed Flirts with the Wirelessly Aware Generation

H&K was charged with defining zed's hip youth-oriented brand and at the same time educating media and analysts about the REAL future of the wireless Internet, which zed is working to deliver in the U.S.

Paul Holmes

The concept of the Wireless Internet sounds great: Put the power of the Internet into wireless devices and give people access to content, e-mail and e-commerce, anytime, anywhere.  In Europe and Asia, consumers are able to experience colorful, interactive content on their phone, but for the U.S., there are significant obstacles to the development of a true wireless Internet.  Unfortunately, the phrase "wireless Internet" has made its way into the lexicon, despite the fact that it is a misnomer.  Users cannot expect to duplicate their PC-based Internet experience on a cell phone, and in fact the thought of squeezing the Internet on the small screen of a cell phone is unappealing.  This was the challenge faced by Sonera zed, subsidiary of Sonera Corp., Finland's leading wireless provider, when it joined forces with Hill & Knowlton nine months ago to make the company a recognized wireless brand and introduce its primary service: a mobile portal for information, communication and information services. H&K was charged with defining zed's hip youth-oriented brand and at the same time educating media and analysts about the REAL future of the wireless Internet, which zed is working to deliver in the U.S.  



·    New, unknown brand in a crowded marketplace
·    Needed to fundamentally redefine the space of the “wireless Internet” to center on zed’s mobile information application
·    Promotional efforts had to speak to two very different audiences: potential partners (e.g., wireless carriers) and potential end-users of zed’s services
·    Zed had no product, profits or significant company presence in the U.S.  Need a graph explaining how these were overcome


·    The youth market was untapped at the beginning of the program; zed could create the space


Hill & Knowlton conducted an in-depth competitor analysis, looking at what services others are touting.  After reviewing the report, it became obvious that zed had more experience and focus on personalization.  Zed’s own research has helped isolate the importance of a specific consumer audience, the young trendsetters  – those that want to discover, use and pay for cutting-edge technologies. U.S. statistics support that finding: 

1. There are 56 million Americans between 15-29 years old. (U.S. Census Bureau, May 2000) 

2 Interest in wireless Internet services is highest among 18-34 year olds, 42% of whom say they have a great deal or quite a bit of interest in getting data services on their wireless devices. (Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 1999)

3. 42% of Generation Wireless own a mobile phone or alphanumeric pager and have access to it most or all of the time. An additional 27% plan to purchase one of these devices in the next year. (Harris Interactive, by Upoc, July 2000) 

4. 20% of 18-34 year olds are among the demographic most likely to choose a wireless device or service based on the variety and number of services and features, rather than price or value (getting the best combination of features and services at a reasonable price). (Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 1999)


Based on the research, H&K took the unusual approach of wrapping a rather traditional corporate PR program in the personality and “vibe” of a hip, youth marketing consumer outreach.  


In order to attract wireless carriers to partner with zed, Hill and Knowlton looked to:

Drive coverage and develop media/analyst relationships focusing on zed’s lifestyle benefits

Redefine the wireless Internet to encompass the kinds of services provided by zed

Establish an identity and credibility for Sonera zed in the US market


The notion that zed is a vibrant, exciting, youth-oriented brand was at the heart of H&K’s strategy.  Outreach to operators was based on the idea that zed could deliver the lucrative demographic of youthful trendsetters.  The strategy also focused on educating the media and analyst communities about zed’s unique and cool way of “doing” the wireless Internet.  Considering zed's limited visibility in the U.S., it was crucial to increase awareness among the media in order to appear on the radar screens of operators.  


H&K executed a variety of creative media relations, trade-show and educational efforts to acquaint target media and other constituencies with zed and drive coverage. 

"Flirting with zed": Conducted creative analyst outreach highlighting zed's popularity as a dating and flirting tool among young teens to emphasize its appeal to the youth market and interest analysts in “flirting” with the company as a promising newcomer in the wireless space.

"Razor Sharp": Promotional program at influential  PCIA GlobalXChange tradeshow.  H&K introduced zed branded Razor scooters to associate the zed brand with the hottest trend of the year.  The scooters also illustrated that zed is "mobile", a key message that zed wanted to get across at the show.

"Back to School": Conducted a campaign to educate reporters that the Web doesn’t replicate well for wireless devices.  Consumers need services geared to the mobile (not personal computer) lifestyle.

"Analyze This": Developed third-party endorsements within the analyst community. 

"Speaking Out": Obtained strategic speaking opportunities for zed executives at key conferences and tradeshows, including PCIA, CTIA Telecom Business and VOX 2000.

"Listen Up!": Announced alliance partners, such as Zagat’s and Fodor’s, and telecom operator partners, such as Powertel to illustrate momentum.

"Making Connections": H&K facilitated meetings with top tier media, which helped introduce zed into stories about the wireless market and youth appeal.  Pitches highlighting zed's appeal to the youth market led to briefings at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Red Herring, The Industry Standard, and Fast Company in addition to coverage in key trade publications like Information Week and Internet World.

"Trading Places": Took advantage of opportunity at Personal Communications Industry Association (PCIA) GlobalXchange show to help brand zed.  Foosball and a colorful, inviting yet edgy booth at the show all helped convey that zed is a youth-oriented, entertainment service, focused on community, and is not a mundane business tool.


While our long-term goals will tie more directly back to changing behaviors so as to move zed forward in the U.S. market, the short-term PR goals to develop media/analyst relationships and effect media coverage were met.  The team’s effort to introduce zed into the U.S. market in a controlled fashion and overcome the lack of product by focusing on zed’s unorthodox brand “personality” has produced coverage delivering key messages.

1).  Drive coverage of zed and develop media relationships focusing on zed’s lifestyle benefits: 

The scooter idea was such a success that Anywhereyougo.com wrote an article "zed Shuns Professionals for Youth Market", demonstrating that the scooter trend is as cool as being a zed head!

RCR's “Sonera zed Prepares Cautious Entry into Wireless Internet” mentioned the unique service niche zed brings to wireless as well as zed’s European experience.

Zed's announcements at PCIA GlobalXchange marked a milestone with media recognizing that zed’s unique niche is not the "wireless web" but "communications services for wireless devices".  Examples of coverage of this point include Wireless Week's "Will Today's Wireless Youth Follow The zed", Anywhereyougo.com's "zed Shuns Professionals for Youth Market" and [email protected] Week's "Setting Their Sites On Wireless User Data."

Planet IT's "The Next Generation of Wireless Communities" highlighted zed's introduction of user-created communities in an article about a partnership with Noblestar.

As a result of the analyst tour, key industry research reports not only included zed, but also contained special sections outlining the company’s service and audience focus. Sohrab Torabi, an mCommerce analyst at DataMonitor hit our messages when he said:  “Sonera's zed mobile portal has a clear understanding of what end-users need on a mobile device. The services are all focused on simplifying people's lives.  In terms of business strategy, zed is backed by Sonera, one of the most advanced mobile companies with partnerships throughout the globe, making it well positioned for when mobile becomes a truly global experience.”

2).  Establish an identity and credibility for Sonera zed in the U.S. market; Redefine the wireless Internet to encompass the kinds of services provided by zed.

The opportunity to expand on the basic story that zed offers more than the “wireless Web” came when zed was featured in Business Week’s “Special Report: Web Smart 50.” Anecdotes included how people use zed to order gifts such as chocolates or even buy a Pepsi from a vending machine, and went on to explain how zed conducts consumer research to drive wireless service features that meet actual needs.

Telephony's "zed Ahead - Sonera subsidiary brings wireless Internet expertise to U.S. operators" article positions zed as a credible partner for operators and a company with substantial experience in helping operators develop unique services that will appeal to consumers.  
Unstrung.com picked up on zed's message of personalization and lifestyle when it named zed one of the Unstrung 25 leading wireless companies. 

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