CAMPAIGNS: Trident revises PR strategy to rebuild its consumer base

PR Team: Trident Microsystems (Sunnyvale, CA) and Gelphman Associates (San Jose, CA) Campaign: High-performance graphics for Main Street Time Frame: May-August 2002 Budget: $25,000

PR Team: Trident Microsystems (Sunnyvale, CA) and Gelphman Associates (San Jose, CA) Campaign: High-performance graphics for Main Street Time Frame: May-August 2002 Budget: $25,000

Once upon a time in Silicon Valley, Trident Microsystems was a name that everyone knew. The 15-year-old hi-tech company thrived in its early years, selling chips for 3D graphics applications in computers. But that was then, and as the market grew, Trident was besieged with competition. It's two biggest rivals were ATI Technologies and nVidia, and until the bubble burst, Trident battled at least 30 other companies. Last year, ahead of the holiday season, PR firm Gelphman Associates helped Trident regain its footing in the marketplace. Strategy Trident had already identified its market position. The company left ATI and nVidia to the high-end, expensive 3D graphics market, and instead focused its energy on satisfying a growing number of consumers who want graphics cards in the $100 range, not $400 range. Trident sells its chips to PC manufacturers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, as well as card vendors, but the problem was that Trident had relatively little presence in the market. One potential customer told the company, "I've got to read about you. I can't plan a line without visibility." Tactics Trident wanted to know why previous PR efforts hadn't worked, and Rob Gelphman, president of Gelphman Associates, had to be brutally honest. He told them to junk the jargon - the self-congratulatory statements and self-serving phrases such as "tech leaders" had no appeal. "You are not a tech leader until someone else calls you a tech leader," Gelphman advised the company. Press releases were then turned into clearly defined statements about the benefits of the company's products. Gelphman also set about generating some face-to-face contact between Trident and the PC press in order to establish the company's credibility with PC manufacturers, software developers, and end users. During a series of demonstrations, Trident avoided knocking the competition, came clean about where it had been all these years, and emphasized the price and performance of its new XP4 chip. Gelphman also gave out new cards equipped with the XP4 to a select group of editors, which in turn generated e-mail review requests from around the world. Results By October 2002, Trident had won two major awards at the System Builders Summit in Amsterdam. And last month, Trident announced four new deals with manufacturers of graphic cards: Chaintech Computer, Hightech Information Systems, Jaton, and Jetway Information. The demos gained coverage in PC Magazine, PC World, Cnet, Maximum PC, and elsewhere, and stimulated further interest in the company's products. Mike Economy, Trident's VP of sales, says, "Gelphman did a fabulous job on an anemic budget. Rob pitched us as the underdog, and gave reporters a David-and-Goliath story. He made it more exciting for them. We've been able to get a great deal of mileage out of that." While Economy says the campaign is helped by a good product, he acknowledges that Gelphman played a crucial role in bringing the company back from the dead. Separately, Trident's publicly traded stock has continued to suffer with the rest of the tech sector, though Gelphman advises there's little Trident can do but keep talking to the analysts and striking new deals. Future Gelphman is still devising future strategies for tech trade shows. At Comdex, Trident invited reporters to receive cards equipped with XP4s from third-party vendors (no meetings involved) to blunt the impact of an expected trade launch by competitor nVidia.

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