CAMPAIGNS: Product Launch - Tech firm solves age-old problem

Client: thinkingBytes Technology (Waltham, MA)

Client: thinkingBytes Technology (Waltham, MA)

Client: thinkingBytes Technology (Waltham, MA)

PR Team: Harpell (Maynard, MA)

Campaign: ThinkDB launch

Time Frame: August - October, 2001

Budget: dollars 85,000

Looking to sell tech-savvy Bostonians on thinkingBytes' new Palm-ready software at the Head of the Charles Regatta, Harpell's Darlene Hollywood ran into a novel problem - how to separate parents from their children.



Strategy

For its ThinkDB launch, thinkingBytes decided to focus on making a mark in Boston. Hollywood decided the best way to show people what the new product could do was to find a real event where it could be put to the test. 'We were looking for a place where we could gather people and encourage them to use the software - we knew a trade show wouldn't work,' she says.

The Head of the Charles seemed the perfect opportunity. Not only does it attract hundreds of thousands of spectators, but the two-day rowing event presented thinkingBytes with just the problem for its new software to solve.

Because races sometimes run the length of the 80-mile Charles River, onlookers are often unable to watch from start to finish - results have traditionally been communicated by word of mouth. But ThinkDB, a relational database manager, could transmit race data in real-time over a wireless network directly to spectators' hand-helds.

However, there was one drawback. Hollywood knew that learning about the new software would take some concentration, and that the herds of tots her target audience would have in tow could make this difficult. She would need a distraction. So she had a pond constructed near thinkingBytes' booth, bought some remote-control boats and created a mini-regatta to entertain the kids.



Tactics

Hollywood approached eight technology analysts in August to evaluate Palm software. 'We also went to them with some messaging that we were considering - trying to gauge whether the customer base would understand relational database management,' she says. 'Some of the messaging that came out of our discussions was the mobility of the product and its wireless attributes.'

She also contacted the technology press via e-mail and PR Newswire, and followed up with phone calls in the weeks leading up to the event. Harpell approached mainstream media such as the Boston Herald, The Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal, Boston Software News and New England Cable News, telling them that the new software would allow people to see the regatta results as soon as they became available.

Hollywood hired temps to distribute flyers in Harvard square and took out ads in college newspapers telling people to visit thinkingBytes' booth at the regatta. Here they could download a demo-version of the new software, including a pre-formatted race program.

Surprisingly, Hollywood's mini-regatta worked as an attraction instead of a distraction - kids dragged hundreds of parents to thinkingBytes' booth.'It turned out to be very beneficial,' says Hollywood.



Results

Pre-event coverage included a feature in Mass High Tech, with quotes from some of the analysts Hollywood had approached, as well as small items in Boston Software News, The Boston Globe and New England Cable News, and on Boston.com.

Coverage increased after the event - items appeared in Mobile Computing and on a host of hand-held computing Web sites. Hollywood claims to have counted about 50 clips so far. Additionally, thinkingBytes president Joseph Baron took part in a new technology roundtable sponsored by The Boston Globe, the results of which were eventually published.



Future

Harpell continues to do outreach to the trade media, and is considering other tech-savvy cities, such as Seattle, New York and Los Angeles, where it could take advantage of similar events.





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