Horizon's H-racer toy car drives sales, awareness

In the world of fuel-cell technology companies, revenue hasn't been easy to come by.

In the world of fuel-cell technology companies, revenue hasn't been easy to come by.

The lack of products obviously doesn't make it easy, so Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, hoping to both bring in revenue and raise awareness about the company, decided to make something it could actually sell: a toy hydrogen car.

Horizon enlisted Weber Shandwick to help promote the H-racer.

Strategy

After buying the toy for himself, William Brent, WS VP and head of its Cleantech unit, approached the company with a plan to make the toy the must-have gift of the holiday season. Brent not only hoped to drive sales while raising awareness of both the company and the technology, but also "we wanted to position Horizon as a company that's innovating in the fuel-cell space," he says - all on a shoestring budget.

Tactics

To get the word out, WS primed the market through gadget enthusiasts and tech-centric bloggers. It sent information on the car to Gizmodo and other online publications that are first stops for people interested in the newest gadgets. The Associated Press picked up the story in July, and Brent and his team set off on a New York media tour to get the toy in consumer publications before the early holiday deadlines.

Results

Sales quadrupled the week after the AP story hit. Stories followed in Wired, Men's Health, and Scholastic News. Time named the car one of the best inventions of 2006. The effort also generated unexpected leads. Horizon was contacted by toy companies, automakers, and other large corporations. The company also created a global distribution network from scratch, says Taras Wankewycz, Horizon cofounder.

Future

Horizon will continue to work with WS on new versions of the H-racer and is moving toward developing solutions for real-size hydrogen cars.

PR team: Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies (Shanghai, China) and Weber Shandwick's Cleantech practice (Seattle)

Campaign: Making the H-racer hydrogen toy car the must-have toy for the holidays

Duration: June to December 2006

Budget: $16,000

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