Toshiba’s Computer Systems Group planned to launch its first Pocket PC handheld product (the e570 Pocket PC PDA) in Fall 2001. With this launch, Toshiba was entering an established and crowded market in which competitors like HP, Sony, Compaq, Palm and Handspring had long ago carved out their pieces of the pie. To succeed as a new and viable player in the PDA market, Toshiba had to clearly differentiate its product and justify its strategy to enter this marketplace so late in the game.  Toshiba did have one advantage: it was launching its PDA on the same day as Microsoft’s new Pocket PC operating system (code name “Merlin”) which Toshiba’s product would feature. This presented an ideal opportunity for Toshiba to leverage and support Microsoft’s media activities.
In May 2001, Benjamin Group was charged with developing a public relations plan that would support the launch of the Toshiba’s e570 Pocket PC PDA, communicate Toshiba’s commitment to developing new mobile devices and support Microsoft with its “Merlin” launch and related press activities.  The PR plan’s objectives specifically supported Toshiba’s business objectives of increasing their perception and sales in the corporate market and supporting Microsoft 100 percent on the launch of their new Pocket PC 2002 operating system.
Prior to launch, more than 70 media and analyst briefings took place and more than 20 evaluation units were seeded with top-tier media to build excitement for the product and collect feedback from editors.  The results exceeded client expectations, with 45 placements, giving Toshiba the ammunition they needed to arm their corporate sales team.  Sales now had third party credibility to support Toshiba’s move into the handheld market and strong differentiation among competitive products.  Bottom line, with the positive press and Microsoft’s support, corporate customers recognized Toshiba as a strong player, resulting in nearly 50 percent of the PDA inventory sold before the units were even available.
Challenges – Morning Sickness
Several challenges had to be addressed:

Limited Product Availability in North America

Toshiba would only sell its PDA directly to corporate customers, not in retail.  This presented a challenge since many of the more consumer-focused media (e.g. Popular Science) would not cover a product that wasn’t available to consumers.  Benjamin Group succeeded in convincing media that corporate customers were also “consumers” and this product would be of great interest to their reader.  The agency succeeded and the Toshiba e570 was included in Popular Science’s PDA product roundup.
Limited Availability of Media Evaluation Units
Benjamin Group was given only five evaluation units and had to prioritize distribution, determining who and what publications would give us the most bang for the buck.  Benjamin Group also tapped into Microsoft, as they were given several units for their “Merlin” launch program.  Together, Benjamin Group and Microsoft shared the pool to ensure all top-tier media has access to evaluation units.
Product Name
Toshiba Japan used the brand name “Genio” for their PDA, but due to a trademark issue the North American market could not use the “Genio” name.  However, because Benjamin Group received early evaluation units, they carried the “Genio” brand name.  To avoid confusion and ensure that the correct product name was used, the agency stepped up its communications with the media -- regularly supplying them with North American branding information and supporting product photography.
Research – Preparing for the Big Day
The agency gathered extensive research to identify product differentiation and key communication avenues to reach Toshiba’s target audiences.  From this research, a plan was developed to:
  • Strengthen Toshiba’s perception and selling dominance within the corporate market and position Toshiba as a leader in mobile technology and devices

        Announce the new e570 Pocket PC to the media and communicate Toshiba’s strategy for entering the PDA space

  • Further strengthen the relationship between Toshiba and Microsoft and collaborate on activities for each company’s respective launches
Specifically, information was gathered from research firm NPD Intelect, Network World’s 500 Survey and International Data Corporation.  Media feedback was also collected through early briefings.  Overall, data showed that the Microsoft Pocket PC platform was a growing market and therefore there was plenty of room for growth of Pocket PC devices.  Analysts also agreed that the corporate market was the next big channel for growth in handhelds.  Early media briefings were overwhelmingly positive - both media and analysts were pleased to see Toshiba entering the PDA space and gave the company kudos for introducing new features such as the bright display and Compact Flash II and SecureDigital expansion slots.
Strategic Approach – Getting Ready for Delivery

Our key program strategies included:

        Communicate Toshiba’s differentiating feature set among competing products

  • Gain buy-in and endorsements from the analyst community

        Seed evaluation units with key target media prior to launch, including both consumer and trade publications

  • Support Microsoft’s press launch and activities of “Merlin” (new Pocket PC operating system)

Campaign Execution – Labor & Delivery
To increase momentum and maximize positive media exposure at time of launch and beyond, Benjamin Group implemented a multi-faceted program.  This included long- and short-lead press tours to build anticipation around Toshiba’s PDA and also reinforce Toshiba’s leadership in the development of innovative, cutting-edge mobile devices.  Media briefings were held with key editors at PC Expo tradeshow in New York.  A comprehensive evaluation program was also deployed to get these new devices in the hands of editors who would cover them on announcement day. One of the most successful aspects of the program was the agency’s recommendation to work closely with Microsoft on their launch of the new Pocket PC operating system and participating in their press events.  Toshiba’s program provided key support during Microsoft’s Editor’s Day, which gave Toshiba access to key media for product briefings – media that were not available on press tours.  The agency also supported Microsoft’s launch event working with Microsoft’s PR team on joint press announcements, media interviews and an executive roundtable.
Evaluation – A Beautiful New Addition
The program successfuly reached its goals and supported Toshiba’s business objectives of increasing their perception and sales in the corporate market and supporting Microsoft 100 percent on the launch of their new Pocket PC 2002 operating system.  More than 70 media briefings took place prior to launch and 20 Toshiba PDA evaluation units were sent to top-tier media.  Media coverage was quite impressive with over 45 placements in top trade, consumer and business publications.  This coverage gave Toshiba’s corporate sales team the third party credibility to support Toshiba’s move into the handheld market and strong differentiation among competitor products. 
Coverage highlights included CNET, eWeek, Forbes, Los Angeles Times, LAPTOP, MSNBC, Pen Computing Magazine, PC Magazine, PC World, Popular Science, MSNBC, techtv, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, ZDNet and PDA Buzz.  Forty-four percent of the media coverage appeared with a photo of the product and five placements appeared on the cover of the magazine or was the leading story – this included LAPTOP Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, New York Times and Pocket PC Magazine.
Business Results
Corporate customers recognized Toshiba as a strong player through a large amount of positive press coverage.  Additionally, this coverage coupled with Microsoft’s support for the Toshiba PDA resulted in nearly 50 percent of the PDA inventory earmarked for corporate customers before the units were shipped from Japan.  Also, working closely with Microsoft on the launch of their Pocket PC operating system, further strengthened the relationship between the two companies and opened dialogue for future collaboration on press launches and activities.