Campaign: Lycos beats off rivals with 1gb email service - Consumer Technology

Campaign: Email wars: the race for space

Client: Lycos Europe

PR team: Seventy Seven PR and in-house

Timescale: May-July 2004

Budget: Undisclosed

Lycos Europe, the communications and entertainment internet portal, hired Seventy Seven PR to launch the UK's first mass-market email service, offering users 1gb of storage space. Lycos Mail went live on 18 May, against a background of both Google and Yahoo! discussing plans for similar 1gb email services.

Objectives

To deliver a high-impact media launch for the Lycos service, establishing the portal as a leading innovator in email provision, both with the media and among internet users. To ultimately fight off its US competitors, encourage customer loyalty and drive up subscriptions.

Strategy and Plan

With Google and Yahoo! talking up their prospective email services, media interest gravitated around 'the race for space'. In particular, Yahoo! promised 'virtually unlimited space' for future paying customers. Meanwhile, Google's plans - to fund a free 1gb Gmail service with ads based on scanning users' messages - was raising privacy concerns with consumer watchdogs.

This offered a window of opportunity to capitalise on Lycos's credentials with journalists and online opinion formers. The PR team moved quickly to ensure the story reached the media and pushed home the uncertainties surrounding the competition.

A press release highlighted that Lycos Mail would be free of ads and use the latest anti-spam and anti-virus software. In addition, comment from Lycos Europe vice-president Alex Kovach ensured media interest focused on customers' worries about security and privacy.

This information was sent out to UK and international consumer internet titles, national internet and e-commerce writers, the news media and, importantly, the online opinion formers - writers and those in forums and chatrooms.

In the follow-up, the PR team tailored the story to specific media interests, offering executive briefings and trials with journalists.

Measurement and Evaluation

The initial story resulted in more than 65 pieces of national, international, consumer and trade coverage in The Times and USA Today, Revolution, Web User and Silicon.com.

In addition, more than 2,000 pieces of online comment were tracked in forums and chatrooms around the globe, demonstrating the impact the launch had among consumers.

Results

In the first week of launch, Lycos calculates that media relations contributed to a 178 per cent increase in registrations across Lycos email services in the UK.

Revolution editor Philip Smith says Lycos achieved good cut-through in the media, at a time when interest was primarily focused on Google's IPO and move into new digital territory with Gmail.

'The story also fitted in well with Lycos Europe's brand positioning of bringing people together,' he adds.

Web User news editor Claire Woffenden agrees. 'Lycos managed to get ahead of its rivals on this occasion,' she says.

'Both Google and Yahoo! had been talking the talk, but neither were able to confirm when services would be available, and there was a lot of vagueness around what was actually going to be on offer.'

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