Paul Holmes 05 Jul 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
Shandwick had been managing all public relations activities for Dun & Bradstreet when the company requested that we launch D&B MaxMatch, a new marketing information product. The Shandwick team was already familiar with Dun & Bradstreet and its goals to become better known outside of the credit reporting industry. This launch proved to be an excellent opportunity to promote another area where Dun & Bradstreet is a leader, but little known to many.
The challenge to Dun & Bradstreet public relations was altering the long-standing perception of D&B as an aged, slow-moving company whose business is limited to credit checks. One way to accomplish this was promoting Dun & Bradstreet’s alliance strategy. By partnering with “new economy” companies such as Oracle, SAP, Siebel and SAS, Dun & Bradstreet began to redefine itself as a business-to-business e-commerce information and solution provider. Dun & Bradstreet embedded its database of more than 60 million companies, updated more than one million times per day, into the products and services of these new economy companies. That was one of the strategies behind the creation of D&B MaxMatch. Dun & Bradstreet partnered with the Acxiom Corporation to create a marketing product that matches customer files against the Dun & Bradstreet database and the Acxiom database, which specializes in consumer as well as small and home-office businesses. As a result, launching D&B MaxMatch was a good opportunity to promote the alliance strategy and help redefine Dun & Bradstreet. The Shandwick team knew that it needed to use Dun & Bradstreet’s well-known but often ill-leveraged name to emphasize the experience, knowledge and information that went into a product designed for marketing initiatives, rather than credit checking. The main objective for Shandwick was to saturate the marketing publications and penetrate the information technology publications with this message and with the news of the product release.
To prepare for the launch, Shandwick was briefed on the functions and benefits of the product through a beta product demonstration and many conversations with Dun & Bradstreet. With that information Shandwick went to work to better understand the market segment that the product would serve. Most of the initial research concentrated on reports of industry analysts, writing about topics such as data warehousing, customer relationship management, business intelligence portals and decision support systems.
It was determined that the product would be introduced at the marketing industry’s biggest trade show of the year, the Direct Marketing for Business (DMB) show. The first step in preparing for the launch was researching industry analysts to determine who would be interested in the news and in D&B’s business strategy. Upon determination of appropriate analysts, Shandwick scheduled briefings with the dual goals of securing an analyst quotation for inclusion in the press release and of having analysts at the ready to discuss the news with reporters and editors. Dan Vesset, senior analyst at IDC, was quoted in the press release, saying, “Dun & Bradstreet is expanding their core competency and taking it to the next level with the D&B MaxMatch product. D&B’s improved data rationalization service should be considered as a vital component of any company’s e-commerce strategy.”
The next step was talking to beta customers in order to ensure that they were satisfied with D&B MaxMatch, were willing to be quoted and/or speak with the press and were capable of communicating the D&B message.
Later, as written materials were prepared, a media kit was assembled to include general information about the Dun & Bradstreet Corp. as well as information about other Dun & Bradstreet marketing products. Shandwick drafted the press release and prepared an internal Q&A to prepare spokespeople for press interaction, whether at tradeshows or in interviews, and for the PR staff to use in our pitching the story to the media. The release was included in the press kit once it crossed the wire, and a screen shot of the product was also included.
Because D&B MaxMatch was to be released at the DMB trade show, Shandwick arranged a pre-show press dinner at which Dun & Bradstreet product managers discussed with reporters the soon-to-be-released product. The dinner was well attended and helped to strengthen media relationships.
An important component of the launch was promotion of the product’s marketing and advertising program, for which the slogan “Get Your Dogs Fixed For Free” was developed. In the vernacular of marketing, a bad file – one that is not updated or is erroneous – is called a “dog.” As a promotion, Dun & Bradstreet was offering to “clean” a certain amount of a customer’s files for free to demonstrate the usefulness of the product. The “face” of the advertising campaign was a charming but tenacious-looking pug dog. For use on the day of the announcement, Shandwick worked with Dun & Bradstreet and the Pug Rescue Association to secure a pair of live pugs to feature in the D&B tradeshow booth. The presence of the dogs and, to a lesser extent, the giveaway item of chocolate in the shape of a dog bone, led the Dun & Bradstreet booth to be one of the most popular at the show. The dogs continued to garner attention from publications and at trade shows well after the product launch. Throughout the year, when Dun & Bradstreet exhibited at marketing tradeshows, people stopped by the booth to ask about the pug dogs.
Shandwick secured an exclusive placement in ComputerWorld for the day of the announcement. Once the release crossed the wire, half of Shandwick’s team worked to place the story in marketing and IT publications, while the other half worked at the trade show. Those pitching publications were sure to include the idea of the pug dogs and their presence in the Dun & Bradstreet tradeshow booth in their pitches. Those who worked at the tradeshow not only helped watch the dogs, but also distributed press kits and arranged and staffed ad hoc press meetings, many of which resulted in coverage for the product. Shandwick continued to pitch D&B MaxMatch for the next few weeks to publications with longer lead times.
Coverage for the launch of D&B MaxMatch appeared in such marketing publications as Direct Magazine and DM News. As aforementioned the exclusive appeared in ComputerWorld, while coverage also appeared in the Dow Jones News Service. Based on the excitement generated at the tradeshow and the coverage that D&B MaxMatch received in marketing and IT publications, Dun & Bradstreet felt that the company had made progress in diluting the long-held belief that D&B’s only business is running credit checks. Saturation of the targeted marketing publications ensured that many key players in the marketing sector were aware of the launch of D&B MaxMatch. Coverage received in IT publications was very important because it acquainted readers with D&B in the context of “new economy” companies and introduced the company’s products and services that target this industry.
The effects of the industry analyst briefings that led to the launch resonated for quite some time. Many of these analysts were enlightened by the idea of Dun & Bradstreet contributing and competing in the business-to-business e-commerce market. The success of these briefings helped point out the importance of industry analyst meetings to Dun & Bradstreet, a company that had rarely met with analysts in the past.
Furthermore, the use of the pug dogs at the trade show helped to lighten the image of Dun & Bradstreet – adding popularity and a sense of fun to the Dun & Bradstreet’s show presence.
Finally, the launch helped to pave the way for future Dun & Bradstreet marketing product launches. Press and analyst relationships were developed and maintained, and the Dun & Bradstreet audience, list of customer prospects and customer base was expanded. The schematic that Weber Shandwick Worldwide set for this launch campaign helped to set the standard for future Dun & Bradstreet product launches and general public relations processes.