NEW YORK: After nearly a year of intense speculation, "IT" was
revealed last Monday to be the Segway Human Transporter, a
battery-powered, self-balancing scooter. And Burson-Marsteller, hired by
Dean Kamen to manage communications efforts - and expectations - for his
much-hyped invention, is one of the reasons the average consumer cannot
yet buy one.
Working with Segway's SVP of marketing Gary Bridge, Burson's brand
marketing practice director Linda Recupero and brand marketing director
Jennifer Norton put together a strategy that focused on the vehicle's
commercial applications. "We could have come out with the consumer model
first," said Bridge, "but we wanted to offset the fun and recreational
aspects of the product by showing actual work being done."
To spread Kamen's intended message - that Segway is not a space-age toy,
but rather a tool that may eventually become a relied-upon part of
everyday life - the Burson team handpicked the news outlets to which the
machine would be unveiled.
Freelance journalist John Heilemann was chosen to write an exclusive
feature story. He wanted to do the piece for The New York Times
Magazine, but Burson steered him toward the broader audience of Time.
The Times, however, was the newspaper given a sneak peak at Segway,
while ABC's Good Morning America got the coveted broadcast debut.
"Keeping the three embargoed media outlets in harness, that was
impressive to me," Bridge said.
Bridge expects stories on the first major Segway purchases - Amazon.com
and the US Postal Service are among those showing early interest - to
appear early next year. Summer 2002 will finally bring events showcasing
the consumer version of Segway. And beyond that? "We've had calls from
people who want to make a movie about this," said Bridge, who insisted
on keeping the names of his Hollywood suitors secret - for now.