Sennheiser takes headphones on countrywide tour

Sennheiser is a German electronics company with a heritage of producing high-end professional audio components.

Client: Sennheiser USA (Old Lyme, CT)
Lead Agency: Hummingbird Media (Katonah, NY)*
Campaign: Sennheiser Sound Tour
Time Frame: June – mid-September 2009
PR Budget: less than $50,000

Sennheiser is a German electronics company with a heritage of producing high-end professional audio components. This summer, it went direct to consumers in the US and Canada to increase awareness and drive sales of its music and gaming headphones among 18- to 26-year-olds.

“Brand awareness was low in the US,” says Stefanie Reichert, Sennheiser USA's VP of strategic marketing. “We have a high conversion rate once we... put product on people's heads. They tend to buy on the spot and then word of mouth kicks in.”

Reichert says Canadian marketing agency The JetStar Group conceived and orchestrated the “Sennheiser Sound Tour,” which would let consumers in more than 30 cities sample the headphones. Hummingbird Media was hired to drive local coverage and attendance. Nicoll PR, which worked previously with Sennheiser, would help with broad, national consumer electronics and tech outreach.

Strategy
Teams of six men and six women who had personal experience with the brand would be selected from an open casting call and trained to lead the tour. Reichert explains that having “regular people” (as opposed to marketing pros) interact with consumers was key to credibility. Because the campaign was built on live interaction, the awareness and attendance in local markets would be a key component. Social media and localized media relations would be the primary drivers.

Tactics
The tour kicked off in June at Summerfest, an 11-day music festival in Milwaukee. To maximize reach, the women's team went on to cover the eastern US and Canada, while the men's team covered the western regions. They made a total of 132 appearances at retail locations, festivals, landmarks, museums, and other regional attractions.

Jeff Touzeau, president of Hummingbird Media, explains that each team created photo and video content, including webisodes of activities and interactions with consumers and Sennheiser-sponsored musicians. Touzeau, Sennheiser's in-house marketing team, and The JetStar group worked together to circulate content through the microsite, sennhiesersoundtour.com, a Sound Tour Facebook page, and Sennheiser's corporate Twitter account. The teams also leveraged Sennheiser's corporate Facebook page and YouTube. Reichert says that Facebook was extremely important because it's “where this audience lives.”

Various contests were designed to drive microsite traffic and product trial. For example, one required consumers to watch a webisode and answer three questions online for a chance to win headphones.

Results
Reichert is “very pleased,” with the results of the campaign, noting that YTD sales are up about 20% over 2008. The teams reached 120,500 people directly, and Touzeau estimates the campaign garnered 100 million online impressions. Local print and broadcast coverage included 380 stories in outlets such as ESPN Radio, KRQE TV in Albuquerque, and The Hartford Courant.

The microsite has attracted 10,813 unique visitors since its July 1 launch. Twenty-two webisodes were filmed and distributed.

Reichert says Sennheiser didn't have a corporate Facebook page until January 2009, and the Sound Tour and corporate Facebook pages now have about 20,000 fans total. She notes that fan numbers “exploded” during the campaign.

As of August, Reichert says market research company NPD indicated that Sennheiser headphones were the highest selling on all online retail sites, with 26% market share.

“We've never done this type of campaign before, and we learned so much about our customers that will help us create better products and plan additional marketing activities,” Reichert adds.

Future
Reichert says Hummingbird will now work with Sennheiser “on a national level and take over all PR initiatives going forward.” The team is preparing for a new product launch at the consumer electronics show in January.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the company and the agency's headquarters cities. Sennheiser is located in Old Lyme, CT, while Hummingbird Media is located in Katonah, NY.

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