Since the dawn of time, the act of writing has remained largely the same. Sure, the instruments have changed, be it a quill, a fountain pen, or a mechanical pencil. But in late 2002, Logitech helped the pen evolve yet again with the introduction of the io personal digital pen, which captures what the user writes on paper, transferring that seamlessly to a computer.
Fully aware that this was a brave new world and that new technologies that are ahead of their time can sometimes fall flat, the company decided to tread cautiously, focusing on educating the IT community and consumers about the product, knowing sales would come in time.
"We wanted to build credibility in a number of places," says Chris Bull, GM of digital writing. "We didn't want to be lumped in as just another product that connects writing to the PC," adding that he didn't want the pen to be seen in the same space as tablet PCs or as a technology way before its time, such as Apple's Newton PDA was.
It was clear from the beginning that PR was going to be the best way for Logitech to educate people about the io, says Bull, because it is the most efficient and effective way to spread the word. People want to hear from experts and influencers, he adds, which makes PR an increasingly important part of the marketing mix. It also would help show how Logitech was an innovative company developing cutting-edge technologies.
At least six months before the io was even available, Logitech planted the first seeds at IT trade show CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, in March 2002. At that time, Logitech announced a partnership with Anoto, which owns the intellectual property for digital writing.
"We wanted to prepare the soil - which is what this announcement did - as well as a webcast with executives and partners," says senior PR specialist Nathan Papadopulos. "This is a new market, and we wanted to make a big impact in terms of awareness. Everything we do in our day-to-day lives, whether it's in business or school, is with a pen and paper. But everything that is written down then has to be entered onto a computer. We eliminate that whole middle step. This is a jump that has to be made."
Logitech continued to make that case with a mobile-devices event in New York that gave select members of the media and analysts a sneak peek at the io. That was followed by a launch in September at DemoMobile and a three-day press tour in October, just weeks before the pen was made available for purchase. Much of 2003 was focused on media outreach.
"The key message we wanted to get across is that this is a pen that remembers everything you write and that this technology doesn't require any learning," says Papadopulos. "With a lot of technologies, it takes time to learn how to use them. Everybody has learned in grammar school the skills you need to use the io pen. We've just made it more powerful by adding a digital element."
Despite initial skepticism from the media, the io pen has gotten heavy media coverage since its debut in November 2002 from dozens of media outlets. Time, USA Today, Esquire, PC World, BusinessWeek, TV show The View, The New York Times, and Popular Science were among numerous magazines, newspapers, websites, and television programs focused on business, technology, entertainment, and lifestyle news to cover the io.
While Logitech won't reveal how many pens it has sold, the heavy media coverage has attracted several technology companies that have partnered with Logitech to develop software for the pen, as well as have Logitech develop the io pen for their enterprise needs. Those partners include Accenture, Mi-Co, Sysnet, Ingram Micro, and S2R Technologies. The press coverage at the beginning of the launch also led to agreements with online retailers, such as Amazon.com and CDW, to carry the io pen.
Logitech will continue its strong media-outreach efforts to educate companies and consumers, and to attract more partners to develop new software and technology for the io pen.
PR team: Logitech (Fremont, CA)
Campaign: Logitech io personal digital pen
Time frame: March 2002 to present