In a time when technology seems to make anything possible, a small French company called Musiwave had a brilliant idea.
Combining the popularity of the cell phone with the portability of a music player, it had developed a full-track music system that allowed users to download music to their phones, by- passing the need for computers or playback devices.
An established name in other parts of the world, Musiwave had already launched its mobile music service in other countries, posting impressive numbers, but it had held off on the US market, which was traditionally behind the rest of the world in terms of consumer gadgets.
When the US finally seemed ripe for the all-in-one convenience that mobile music offers, Musiwave sought to seed the market for business development. It hired New York-based The Fortex Group (in conjunction with Ballou PR in Paris) to help put the company on the map in the US.
Musiwave was marketing services that would ultimately end up in the hands of consumers, but in terms of business, these ideas mainly concerned very high-end b-to-b items. That meant Fortex had to target a very small audience of a few dozen carrier companies and around 100 content and delivery partners. As such, its job was two-fold: First, it had to raise awareness of Musiwave as a solid company that could solve serious problems within the wireless music industry. Second, it had to turn that awareness into one-on-one meetings with potential business partners.
Fortex also wanted the positioning strategy to present a challenge to the current mobile music industry, led by Apple's iPod. Many companies had previously come out with players in an attempt to beat the iPod, but Musiwave wanted to be the first to say that it was going to let the phones themselves beat it.
"The carriers may have heard of Musiwave, but they weren't known as a company that was ready to sell to the US wireless market," says Ephraim Cohen, a partner at Fortex.
The company was certain mobile music would soon break out as a major topic of industry conversation, so it pre-emptively tried to convince the media that the idea of music on a cell phone wasn't as strange as it sounded. Fortex installed the software on a number of phones and released them to reporters at key trade and business publications, allowing them to experience the convenience of the service for themselves.
"We hoped to convince them that the idea was really quite natural, and that consumers would like it," says Cohen.
Hoping to couple the anticipated media flurry with the well-timed buzz surrounding mobile music, Fortex sent Gilles Babinet, Musiwave chairman and cofounder, out on a speaking circuit to capitalize on this interest.
The success of the demonstrations produced several trade and business media placements, and Babinet's networking efforts led to the scheduling of more than 20 meetings. Three target customers called in as a result of the media-driven attention, a significant number for such a high-level b-to-b in the wireless world, in which there are only a few dozen potential customers at most in the field.
"Media efforts were regularly cited in targeted business development meetings as [helping] to drive interest on the side of the potential customer," says Babinet via e-mail.
Having reached its year-end goal, Musiwave is in serious talks with a couple of other carriers. At this point, the campaign is essentially a maintenance program that aims to make sure services are being marketed to consumers properly, keeping Musiwave at the top of the industry as other mobile music companies roll out their own programs.
"Whatever the numbers end up being, it is certain that the perception of the company has completely changed," adds Babinet.
PR team: Musiwave (Paris) and Fortex Group (New York), in partnership with Ballou
Campaign: Introduction and Business Development in the North American Market
Time frame: October 2004 to present (ongoing)
Budget: About $120,000