Consumer Relations: SEA gets the public to train its eyes on latest technology

To highlight its technology, Siemens Energy & Automation (SEA) took a road trip.

To highlight its technology, Siemens Energy & Automation (SEA) took a road trip.

SEA develops electrical, engineering, and automation technology and services for a variety of companies, including some of the best-known companies' industrial manufacturing and construction industries.

The company wanted to heighten awareness of its "integrated automation story," not just for existing customers, but also for potential customers, the media, and analysts, says John Dimmerling, director of marketing communications. To that end, SEA's in-house communications team decided that the best way to demonstrate SEA's integrated technology to customers was to take that technology directly to them.

Strategy

Borrowing from a similar concept Siemens used in Europe, SEA deployed a 1,000-foot-long train, a veritable trade show on rails, to 10 US cities over a three-month period.

"We saw this as a unique venue and an innovative way to bring our story to our customers," says Dimmerling.

SEA planned to take the train to Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, DC, New York, Boston, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

And while the train was a good way to reach customers, what was inside the trains was most important, says Dimmerling. To best demonstrate its technology's value, the company loaded the train with 224 plasma screens and monitors, 189 DVD players, four servers, 9 miles of electrical cables, and almost 2 miles of data lines.

One train car housed a golf-ball factory in order to demonstrate manufacturing automation, while another car housed technology designed to help companies develop machines quicker and more cheaply. Other train cars were designed with simulations of SEA's technology in the pharma, chemical, and automobile industries.

Tactics

SEA teamed up with distributors and other partners to reach out to current and potential customers to ensure strong attendance at each of the train's stops. The company also used e-mail campaigns, SEA's sales force, and media outreach to generate interest in the train at each destination. For additional help with media relations, SEA tapped Dentsu Communications of New York City to reach out to New York-based media and Spencebender Communications of Knoxville, TN, for the trade media.

In addition to the 40 people on board the train to provide hands-on demonstrations of the technology, SEA also offered visitors technical training seminars at nearby hotels. And the opportunity to win more than $100,000 in prizes, including golf packages, an Alaskan cruise, TVs, golf clubs, home-theater systems, and DVD players, probably didn't hurt in generating attendance.

Results

With stops in 10 cities (including four days in Chicago and two days each in Atlanta, New York, and Boston), the train attracted slightly more than 700 people each day, with nearly 12,000 people visiting the train during its cross-country trek. And attendees spent an average of 90 minutes visiting the train.

In follow-up interviews with attendees, 82% said they had a positive experience, while 93% indicated they had learned something new about SEA. In addition, 22% asked for additional information. And of the $3 million in orders that came from the Exider train tour to date, 39% have come from new customers (of those visiting the train, 14% were prospective customers). Because of the lead time on many SEA orders, Dimmerling anticipates a strong flow of orders in the last two months of this year and early next year.

The train also attracted the right audience. Seventy-two percent of attendees are involved in procurement decisions.

Future

Dimmerling says SEA is so pleased with the results that it is considering taking the train out on the rails again, this time into new regions like Canada.

PR team: Siemens Energy & Automation (Alpharetta, GA)

Campaign: Siemens Exider Train

Time frame: February to May 2004

Budget: $8 million

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