PRODUCT LAUNCH - Lego targets men with hi-tech toy
PRODUCT LAUNCH - Lego targets men with hi-tech toy
Client: Lego Co. Robotics Division, US headquarters (Enfield, CT)
PR Team: Mintz & Hoke (Avon, CT); Switzer Communications (Marin County,
Campaign: Storm Alert: Lego Mindstorms
Time Frame: December 1997 to December 1998
Budget: dollars 1.2 million
The ’ultimate low-tech toy,’ Lego, needed to update its image. In
launching the new Mindstorms robotics line, the building-block
manufacturer was entering a hi-tech toy category and needed to appeal to
an older audience, according to John Dion, PR manager. Instead of
marketing to mothers and their children under the age of 10, the PR team
wanted to reach kids 12 to 17 and males in their 20s. The dollars 200
microcomputer enables users to program/build their own robots, and like
conventional Lego, dismantle the toy and construct a different one. The
company relied primarily on PR efforts for its launch.
When the team first sat down to plan the launch, it was decided that PR
would take the lead role. ’It’s the best vehicle for reaching adult
audiences,’ says Dion. ’We reserved the advertising dollars for reaching
the kids.’ The company had to reach a new media audience and a new
retailer audience to move the product off the shelf.
Among the tactics used to launch the product was a cross-country media
tour to the 30 top markets. John Dion and Eileen Brangan, senior account
executive at Mintz & Hoke, gave three- to five-minute demos of
Mindstorms on local news shows. Thousands of press kits entitled ’Storm
Alert,’ were distributed for a variety of media, including Parents
magazine, GQ, Rolling Stone and Family PC. A round of editorial visits
were made to both long-lead and short-lead media. Switzer Communications
produced a video based on a Robo Tour in which two college students
traveled across the country to visit sites where robotics were being
used in an exciting way - for example, at the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream
plant, robots help make the product.
These visits were posted on the Lego web site (www.lego.com) so
consumers could follow the tour.
Trade shows were another element of this campaign. Lego introduced the
product at the American International Toy Fair in New York in February
1998, but expanded the typical trade-show cycle by including more tech
shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January and
the May E3 software shows in Atlanta and Los Angeles.
Research showed that 45% of consumers learned of the product through PR,
a higher percentage than from advertising, Dion reports. ’Sales of the
product were strong before the advertising even kicked in.’ In fact,
when people saw Mindstorms on TV (according to subsequent media
research), they logged on to the web site and started ordering the
product. The product was sold out before the Christmas holiday. There
were more than 5,000 media placements with 800 million media
impressions, valued at over dollars 6 million, according to Dion. And
Mintz & Hoke won Creativity in Public Relations Award (CIPRA) for its
launch of Lego Mindstorms.’This is a case where PR can have the power to
build a consumer brand image,’ says Diane Edwards, SVP and PR director
for Mintz & Hoke.
Since the launch, Lego is working with key editors to produce stories
based on the interesting projects adults have built with Lego
Mindstorms, such as a working copier, a robotic card dealer and an ATM
that gives candy. Two more products are being introduced in September, a
’droid-developer kit’ based on Star Wars and a ’robotics discovery kit’
for children about 8 years old. ’We will focus on holiday gift guides
and will be Mom-directed, to show that the product is a good learning
experience for kids,’ says Dion. - Jan Jaben-Eilon
MARKETING COMMUNICATION - Heartstream goes to work
Client: Hewlett-Packard Heartstream (Seattle, WA)
PR Team Schwartz Communications (Waltham, MA)
Campaign: Schwartz Communications (Waltham, MA)
Time Frame:: September 1998
Budget: Not available
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) claims 350,000 lives a year in the US.
According to the American Heart Association, 100,000 lives could be
saved by early defibrillation, which shocks the heart back into a normal
Defibrillator manufacturer Hewlett-Packard (HP) Heartstream had
successfully sold the devices to police and fire departments, airlines
and large public venues such as stadiums, but it was looking to conquer
a new market segment.
’The idea is to put defibrillators in places where people can reach them
most quickly and where people spend their waking time each day,’ says
Wendy Katzman, director of corporation communications for HP
’The workplace is the next logical step.’
HP conducted research and found that people were more likely to have
cardiac arrests at work than during the weekend. The company needed to
convince companies of the importance of having a defibrillator
’The first challenge was awareness,’ says Katzman. ’People are still not
aware of sudden cardiac arrest and the fact that early defibrillation is
key. The second challenge was to convince people that SCA is an equal
opportunity killer that can strike anytime, anywhere without
We needed to reach a broad audience, and we knew PR was the most
effective way of doing this.’ Schwartz planned a broad, aggressive and
proactive campaign targeted at the general print and broadcast media, as
well as business outlets and publications, key vertical publications and
occupational health and human resource outlets.
Because the story was not driven by a news event, Schwartz developed a
campaign positioning defibrillators in the workplace as an emerging
trend. The agency contacted companies that had already purchased
defibrillators to determine their willingness to speak to the press.
They discovered that Jim Young of Michelin North America suffered
cardiac arrest at the company gym and was saved by an HP ForeRunner
Although Michelin’s medical director didn’t initially consider
publicizing the defibrillator program, Schwartz worked with Michelin’s
PR director to persuade the company that being positioned as a caring
employer could only be to its advantage.
’Michelin enhanced the story, because we were able to put a face on the
concept,’ says Schwartz account executive Barry Mason.
Schwartz began aggressively pitching the ’sudden cardiac arrest in the
workplace’ trend story, along with Young’s story, to The Wall Street
Journal and USA Today with the goal of securing a story that would
facilitate mass media broadcast coverage.
The agency developed a VNR that included interviews with Young, doctors
and paramedics, an overview of cardiac arrest and information on how the
defibrillator worked. Schwartz also issued a media alert announcing the
distribution of the VNR and a news release naming several companies
employing automatic external defibrillator (AED) programs. The agency
then followed up with TV and radio producers at the top 400 broadcast
markets, as well as reporters at leading major metropolitan dailies.
Before the VNR was released, a story about Young and sudden cardiac
arrest in the workplace ran on page one of The Wall Street Journal’s
Marketplace section. The same day, an article appeared in US News &
World Report about Bob Adams, a lawyer whose life was saved when he
suffered sudden cardiac arrest at defibrillator-equipped Grand Central
Station in New York. Two days later, a story on page one of USA Today’s
Life section and a seven-minute story ran on the Fox News Channel.
The momentum generated by national print stories piqued the interest of
broadcast producers nationwide. The VNR generated 66 million impressions
and approximately 8 million print impressions. The agency won a
Communicator Award of Excellence and two Bell Ringer awards for the VNR
and product publicity.
’We were worried at first, because there was no actual news involved in
the campaign, and no event,’ says Mason. ’Having the Michelin employee
who was saved let it go over the top. Without that, we probably would
not have been successful.’
Schwartz is still identifying companies that have used the
It is currently considering a campaign for the local press surrounding a
shareholder of PPG Industries in Pittsburgh, who was helped by a
defibrillator after suffering a cardiac arrest at a shareholders’
meeting. - Rebecca Flass
EVENT MARKETING - Fruit a Freeze dunks stars Client: Fruit a Freeze
(Norwalk, Los Angeles)
PR Team: Buckley/Friedman Marketing Communications (Costa Mesa, CA)
Campaign: Fruit a Freeze Chocolate Dipped event
Time Frame: One-day event
Sometimes it’s important to have a complex media strategy in place.
Other times it helps to pre-test a campaign before springing it on your
target audience. But occasionally, all you need is a big tank of
chocolate and a couple of local celebrities.
This combination certainly proved a winner for Costa Mesa agency
Buckley/ Friedman (B/F), when what began as a little more than a
publicity stunt at the Old Pasadena Summerfest turned into an
unpredictable media frenzy.
In the words of Fruit a Freeze CFO Edward Rodriguez: ’The campaign that
was developed far surpassed our expectations.’
B/F wanted to gain maximum media attention for its new client, frozen
fruit bar maker Fruit a Freeze, in the run-up to summer. It also wanted
to publicize the company’s new Chocolate Dipped product.
The agency decided to rent a booth at the Old Pasadena Summerfest on
Memorial Day Sunday and stage an event that would attract media coverage
while also raising money for charity. At the same time, consumers would
be able to sample the products.
The agency obtained a 500 gallon dunk tank and filled it with
Two LA anchors, KABC’s Philip Palmer and KTLA’s Terisa Estacio, were
persuaded to join a band of six agency volunteers lining up for a
The volunteers’ healthy looks were designed to promote the
figure-friendly Fruit a Freeze products. In turn, Fruit a Freeze
promised to donate dollars 500 to each of the anchor’s favorite
charities if they agreed to be dunked.
Visitors stood in line to sample Fruit a Freeze products and take their
shot at dunking an anchor or a member of the account team.
Those who were successful were entered into a raffle for a trip for two
Both anchors took a dunking, so a total of dollars 1,000 was split
between the LA Rescue Mission and The Humane Society. Not surprisingly,
the anchors’ own shows covered their dive into the chocolate goo. But
the event also attracted the attention of every other network in the
area, perhaps lured by the prospect of seeing their competitors behaving
in such an undignified manner.
’We achieved 13 news stories in 24 hours - a total of 3.1 million
impressions,’ says B/F AE Natasha Nelson. ’We had hoped to saturate the
L.A. market and in the end that was exactly what we did. And of course,
thousands of passers-by sampled the products.’
B/F continues to handle Fruit a Freeze and is now looking for even more
eye-grabbing events to promote its client’s products. - Mark Tungate.