CAMPAIGNS: Blanc & Otus puts N-Charge battery in the right hands

PR Team: Valence Technology (Austin, TX) and Blanc & Otus (San Francisco) Campaign: N-Charge battery launch Time Frame: February and March 2002 Budget: $17,000

PR Team: Valence Technology (Austin, TX) and Blanc & Otus (San Francisco) Campaign: N-Charge battery launch Time Frame: February and March 2002 Budget: $17,000

For years, Valence Technology was renowned for its research and development in battery chemistry. But when new leadership came on board in the spring of 2001, they wanted to take the company in a new direction. Instead of just focusing on the science behind batteries, the company decided it was high time to start developing its own batteries. And with a perceptible upsurge in the use of mobile devices by both consumers and businesspeople, Valence knew that people would need more than the couple hours of battery life their devices provided. "Everyone is going wireless," says Rae Logsdon, Valence's corporate marketing manager. "But what good is a wireless [internet access] coffee shop if you need to find an outlet for your computer?" Thus, the company developed the N-charge battery, which provides mobile devices with up to 10 hours of power. Strategy Working with agency of record Blanc & Otus (B&O), Valence wanted to promote its first consumer product as a key asset in mobile computing, as well as the convenience that comes with having a reliable power source, whether the user is in a cafe for one hour or on an international flight for several hours. "We wanted people to experience the mobility this gives them firsthand," says Logsdon. "If we got this product into people's hands, they would see how the product would change their lifestyle. And we hoped it would also change the way people thought about the company." Tactics B&O recommended debuting the N-Charge battery at last year's DEMO show, an event renowned for launching new technologies. "DEMO gave Valence the chance to talk to a lot of influential reporters, and get them to try the N-Charge," says B&O account supervisor Sue Ellen Schaming. "That was where we aggressively launched a reviewers program, where the media could take the N-Charge with them and try it out for a couple of days." "We had some reporters who were reluctant to give it back," says B&O VP Rebecca Hurst, adding that an Associated Press reporter took the N-Charge with him to Baghdad. After DEMO, B&O kept up the evaluation program, putting the N-Charge into as many reporters' hands as possible. "Once we got it into their hands, we knew they were going to say, 'Wow, how did I live without this?'" says Logsdon. B&O and Valence continued their media and analyst outreach after DEMO, including campaigns aimed at in-flight magazines to capture business travelers' attention, as well as a campaign for Apple users. Results Positive reviews for the N-Charge appeared in publications such as MacCentral, PC Magazine, Financial Times, Network World, and websites including ZDNet. Features that positively reflected on Valence's corporate image appeared in publications including The Wall Street Journal, San Jose Mercury News, The Washington Post, USA Today, and Forbes, as well as tech-focused websites such as CNET. The initial round of media coverage drove 14% of online sales, and the latest media push has increased online sales related to media coverage to 19%. Valence is able to track the effectiveness of the media campaign as it relates to online sales, as consumers are asked how they heard about the N-Charge. Future "The reviewer program just won't die," says Logsdon. "We keep getting journalists who are interested in reviewing the N-Charge." In addition to ongoing media outreach to the business and technology press, Valence and B&O are also going to reach out to vertical markets, including healthcare, travel, and education.

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