PR Team: eMachines (Irvine, CA) and Maples Communications (Irvine, CA) Campaign: Rebranding of eMachines Time frame: October-December 2001, ongoing Budget: $45,000If it weren't for bad news, eMachines wouldn't have had any news at all in 2001. By October of that year, eMachines had suffered 13 consecutive quarters of net loss, and reportedly had the lowest customer-satisfaction rating in the industry. Nasdaq delisted the company's stock after it began trading under a dollar, and rumors were spreading that it was going out of business. Execs realized that those rumors could soon become a reality if they didn't act quickly. Strategy To address its raft of problems, eMachines brought in Maples Communications. "What I liked most was they came in and looked at the new management team, and evaluated where that team said it wanted to go," says Murray Bognovitz, VP of marketing at eMachines. "Then they just took the ball and ran with it." Consumers and the PC industry had deemed eMachines a "cheap PC," according to Bob Maples, president of Maples Communications. He wanted to change that perception to "best in value." The idea was to alter people's mindset, so they realized that regardless of how much they wanted to spend on a PC, eMachines would provide the best return on the investment. Tactics "We pulled out everything that had ever been written about the company," says Maples. "We did in-store reviews, and tried to buy one of their computers, and staff at the store was telling us not to buy it." The client focused on two areas to rebuild its reputation. First, it launched an aggressive campaign to get positive reviews in the consumer and trade press. Consumers often base their PC purchasing decisions on what they read, asserts Maples, so developing reviews was key to getting the company on track. Second, the company pumped millions of dollars into its customer-service program, according to Bognovitz, who wanted consumers to feel confident not only when they bought an eMachines PC, but after they made their purchase as well. "It wasn't about hype," says Maples. "Customers are cynical and cautious, but they trust third parties. That's why the reviews were so important. And we also leveraged our partnerships with companies like Microsoft. The key thing was to put something positive in the mind of the prospective buyer." Results Aggressive product reviews and friendly customer service have apparently paid off. The company's stock price climbed from 16 cents in October 2001 to $1.06 by the end of December 2001, and the company has seen seven consecutive profitable quarters. During the initial period of the PR program, eMachines doubled its unit sales volume. The company also points to research by IDC that shows it surpassed Apple and Gateway in overall worldwide sales in 2002, and is now fifth in the industry. And NPD Intelect rated eMachines the number-two vendor in US retail stores seven of the last eight weeks of 2001, surpassing Compaq for the first time in its history. Future In 2002, eMachines increased its PR budget from $15,000 to $30,000 per month, and that has held steady this year, as the company moves into international markets and introduces new products such as notebook computers and monitors.