PR Team:LifeGem (Elk Grove, IL) and Media ImPRessions (Chicago)Campaign:LifeGem LaunchTime Frame:August 20 - presentBudget:under $20,000
LifeGem was an unknown company with a rather morbid, if wholly unique, product to push. The company, which offers the recently bereaved diamonds manufactured with the ashes of their cremated loved ones, had spent four years refining its product, and was ready to bring it to market. But with a limited budget, little marketing expertise on staff, and a proposition that requires some explanation, the small company had a hard sell ahead of it.
LifeGem hired Chicago agency Media ImPRessions, and settled on a strategy of targeting a major regional or national print publication and a top broadcast outlet with the hope that the story would filter out nationwide.
The company secured its first customer, the French family, whose patriarch Dave was terminally ill with emphysema. The family agreed to be featured in LifeGem's promotional efforts, and to perform interviews. Dave had wanted his ashes scattered in the forest where he grew up, while his wife wanted something to remember him by.
Both LifeGem and Media ImPRessions knew they had the kind of quirky story that could take off, and now they could put faces to it. They prepared b-
roll and product photography, prepped the Frenches and CEO Greg Herro for interviews, and began pitching select publications and broadcast outlets for exclusives. "From focus groups, we knew creating this unique memorial had a large amount of appeal," says Herro. "So PR was always one of the top-focus items."
Initially, the firm had hoped to land a feature in USA Today, but efforts to that end were unsuccessful. So Media ImPRessions made use of its relationship with Chicago Tribune business reporter Christine Tatum to negotiate a deal that would give the story a spot on the front page of the Sunday edition, along with distribution throughout the Tribune Company's holdings, which include the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, and New York Newsday.
The firm also secured a broadcast exclusive with the Today show. Following on the heels of the Tribune story, LifeGem worked with AP, Reuters, and UPI to ensure the broadest-possible distribution. The firm also used Wireless Flash News, an online audio newswire, to feed the story through radio stations. LifeGem's PR team made CEO Herro, together with the French family, available for interviews at the French home.
LifeGem got more than it bargained for. The PR team has struggled to keep up, as an effort that it hoped would generate national coverage spawned into an international story. Coverage by the BBC and Germany's Der Spiegel prompted reports the world over. At home, the story snowballed, with coverage from the likes of CNN and The Washington Post driving the story into local markets. All told, LifeGem has logged over 200 media hits.
E-mails from prospective customers, investors, and partners are pouring in at a rate of 500 per day, and the company already boasts an order backlog of two to three months. Perhaps most importantly, funeral homes, which had initially expressed skepticism about potential consumer demand for the product, are signing up in droves. The company, which launched with just 12 funeral homes on board, expects to have over 500 offering its gems by year's end.
LifeGem must now sustain that buzz while building the business in its target markets. The company plans to target the funeral industry through trade organizations, while going after key consumers through periodicals aimed at the elderly, Asians, Indians, gays and lesbians, along with alternative weeklies. Based on cremation rates, LifeGem has identified Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, OR, and Phoenix as primary target markets.