Launch analysis: Building buzz before the product

SAN DIEGO: In launching its yellow pages/social network online community, MojoPages.com opted for a buzz-building PR program centered on "complete and total transparency," the company's CEO said.

SAN DIEGO: In launching its yellow pages/social network online community, MojoPages.com opted for a buzz-building PR program centered on "complete and total transparency," the company's CEO said.

According to MojoPages founder and CEO Jon Carder, since MojoPages would be "going up against large, well-established [online] yellow pages and even search engines" when it launches in mid-February - such as Citysearch and Yelp - it was essential to take an advance-outreach approach as non-traditional and transparent as the product itself.

The company introduced a corporate blog in October 2006, by which MojoPages staffers wrote about what "we're doing right and wrong" in preparing for the anticipated launch. "I make everybody write on the blog, even the CFO," Carder said. "Nothing's held back."

In addition to providing an unmoderated forum for comments from potential users, Carder said the blog also "exposes the real us, and invites [people] to come along for the ride as we launch the company."

MojoPages also created a series of "behind-the-scenes," documentary-style videos, meant to display the company's employees as "regular people with great track records, but errors, too," Carder said. Updated weekly for the past three months, the 10-minute videos show up regularly on video-sharing sites including YouTube and Veoh; appearing on the latter's homepage, they have garnered views close to 200,000 a day.

The company, too, relied on off-line media to spread the word about its blog and forthcoming launch. A similarly "corporate transparency"-focused campaign, handled by San Diego-based Drasnin Communications, targeted new media, business, and trade outlets, as well as investors' relations.

"The world responds to being straightforward," said firm principal Ray Drasnin, of MojoPage's efforts. "That [approach] resonates with people."

That's good news for the company, expected to launch with a 15 million-business database in need of local user input. People in key markets, including early Internet adopters and Moms, have already been tapped to write business reviews and share experiences, Carder said. But the site's ad-driven content ranges from restaurants to dentists in cities across the nation - and there's a lot to fill. Carder doesn't think that will be a problem, however.

"What we're trying to create is a new generation of marketing, where people become the marketer for you," he said. "We're relying on a good enough, revolutionary enough product that people spread the word virally."

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