PR is Jadoo's preferred method to familiarize the public with its fuel-cell electricity-storage items
In its five-year history Jadoo Power, a fuel cell power systems manufacturer, had never conducted any substantial PR or marketing campaigns until last August when Jack Peterson joined the company as its VP of sales and marketing.
"The company did some trade shows but that was about it," Peterson says. "But there were no aggressive PR or marketing efforts."
This was just one of the things Peterson was looking to change. Aside from initiating a large media and consumer communications effort, Jadoo wanted to change the way consumers viewed and talked about their products while expanding its customer base.
To say PR is playing a major role in the company's efforts would be a slight understatement since PR is all the company is using. Peterson believes it delivers a lot more bang for the buck than advertising.
"As a marketing VP, I'd sign off on two times the amount for a PR budget compared to an ad budget," he says. "If someone said, 'I'm going to spend $100 on advertising,' I'd say, 'I'll tell you what. I'll give you $200 to spend on PR before I sign that $100.' It's just a better return on your investment."
Thomas PR of Melville, NY, has been Jadoo's AOR for the last eight months.
Peterson says that, when he arrived, the company viewed the word battery as such a taboo it even named a product NAB, short for not a battery. Peterson feels this caused apprehension on the part of consumers.
"Fuel cells aren't batteries and don't work like batteries, so we were forbidden to say the word battery in the building," Peterson says. "That's how ridiculous it was. We named a product about not being a battery."
Peterson decided that PR would focus on setting standards in how consumers and the company talk about their products. His motto was: Let consumers call it whatever they want.
"If buyers are familiar with and like buying batteries, let them call it a hydrogen battery," he says. "Do we really care? No. So now we let the consumers decide the [content], if you will. They have to understand it and be comfortable with it or they won't buy it."
Jadoo's primary customers have always been broadcasters and the professional video camera market. It's currently broadening its customer base to include what Peterson calls "prosumers," which include fire fighters, construction site managers, and emergency-response workers.
"The new target are these critical applications, where we're in more of a support role," Peterson says. "In broadcast, we're primary power - you take us off the camera, the camera doesn't work. In other markets, we're in a support role and we're targeting any consumers who realize they eventually will have to find their own power source."
Larry Bawden, president and CEO of Jadoo, says both marketing and PR have a place, but believes PR is more effective in conveying the company's message.
"PR is pretty important because most people don't realize fuel cells are being used in many different applications," says Bawden. "From our perspective, getting that communication out is very important. PR is what really gets people's attention. That's important because energy sources are a pretty hot subject in the current energy climate."
Peterson notes that PR is allowing the company to gain exposure and communicate with consumers in a way advertising cannot. "When people hear fuel cells, they immediately think 'cars,' so their attitude is: why should I listen to Jadoo?" Peterson says. "Doing PR, press releases, and trade shows is what's helping us to get people to realize that fuel cells are actually available, can be used in their homes and in other areas, and that they're actually affordable."
Peterson says the company is utilizing all of the PR tools available.
"We're doing media tours, press releases, interviews, authoring articles, and attending trade shows," he explains. "We're targeting everything from military and defense electronics magazines all the way down to getting coverage at the Cnet.com level. That's about as consumer as you can get. I think what all of these outlets are homing in on is the fact that it's commercialized and we're not a one-off or two-off type of [company]."
Jadoo is also using PR to help change the firm's reputation, which, notes Peterson, has gone from a "dark, military-type" image to a friendlier brand. The company also streamlined its name from Jadoo Power Systems to Jadoo Power.
PR is also allowing Jadoo to educate people about the company and the industry.
"They're learning who we are. Because we're one of the first ones in this industry out there, we're also having to educate people on where the industry is," Peterson says.
AT A GLANCE
Company: Jadoo Power
President/CEO: Larry Bawden
Headquarters: Folsom, CA
Revenue/Latest Figures: Private company. Backed by VC money from Mohr Davidow Ventures (MDV), Venrock and Sinclair Ventures
Competitors: Boller, Protonex and Smart Fuel Cells
Key Trade Titles: Broadcast Engineering, TV Technology, and all publications in the preparedness and homeland security genre
Marketing Budget: Undisclosed
Marketing and Comms Team: Barbara Van Fleet, marketing manager Jeff Bachas, senior marketing manager
Marketing Service Agencies: Thomas PR, Melville, NY