Copernic takes on competition with security message

As Copernic planned to launch its desktop-search software, the privately held company saw two storm clouds in the distance.

As Copernic planned to launch its desktop-search software, the privately held company saw two storm clouds in the distance.

Google and Microsoft were set to launch their own desktop- search applications. Copernic knew that if it had any chance of catching the media and public's attention, it had to beat those two goliaths to the punch.

The company was best known for its meta-search technology, which allowed users to cull results from several search sites simultaneously. Because corporations were the primary users of that software, Copernic didn't have the share of mind or heart among consumers that Google and Microsoft already did.

Strategy

Lois Paul & Partners (LPP) knew the company had to move quickly in order to get in front of Google and Microsoft. Messaging also had to be kept simple if the media and consumers were going to listen to a company they were not very familiar with.

"The challenge was finding a positioning and a communications strategy that appealed to the mass market," says Copernic CEO David Burns. "It's hard to go to USA Today and say, 'Tell the masses we're good.'"

Tactics

Copernic first targeted the tech trades and bloggers who would take greater interest in a smaller company's foray into the desktop-search arena, particularly as LPP positioned it as a technological David versus Goliath.

"We had a CEO willing to go after the competition and not shy away from controversy," explains LPP VP Melissa Zipin.

As Google's desktop-search application came to market, Copernic tested Google's technology and reached out to media and analysts about potential bugs in the software that could expose consumers to security and privacy risks. Copernic used Google's launch to tout its own technology and to drive home the privacy concerns it had uncovered.

As Copernic met with media and analysts, the company repeated that Google "put profits first; Copernic put privacy first," says Zipin.

And when Copernic was talking about its own technology, and not Google's, the message was kept simple, adds Zipin. The company shied away from tech jargon and focused on how easy its software was to use, hoping that message would trickle up from the tech trades and bloggers to the mainstream media.

Subsequent efforts included the release of Copernic Desktop Search 1.5, focusing on the updated software's support for Mozilla Foundation's popular open-source Firefox browser.

Copernic also drove an awards program, highlighting awards the software had won since January 2005, several months after the software's initial launch.

Results

Copernic generated major media coverage in BBC News, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, BusinessWeek, Reuters, and other outlets. The desktop-search application also scored strong reviews in The Boston Globe, CNET, PC World, Search Engine Watch, and others.

The positive media coverage led to more than 150,000 downloads within the first three weeks of the launch. And since the software's launch a year ago, Copernic has had more than 1 million downloads to date.

Future

LPP continues to work with Copernic to position the company as a thought leader in the search-engine market. In coverage of Google's desktop-search launch, for example, Copernic was often mentioned as a major competitor.

Upcoming initiatives will look to spotlight Copernic's technology, and further enhance the company's initiatives toward thought-leadership.

PR team: Copernic (Newton, MA) and Lois Paul & Partners (Woburn, MA)

Campaign: David versus Goliath: Winning the Battle for Desktop Search

Time frame: August 2004 to March 2005

Budget: $30,000 (initial launch)

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