Lisa LaMotta finds that tried-and-true tactics can no longer guarantee huge impact for product launches
In a world where people are constantly bombarded by campaigns for new products or slightly revamped older ones, it is hard to get people to notice that your offering is unique. Yet, the crowded nature of this new-media world also offers PR pros the opportunity to be creative when trying to get a brand name out there.
Marina Maher Communications (MMC) accepted such a challenge with the launch of Head & Shoulders HydraZinc, a new spin on an old favorite. The new shampoo's key ingredient, hydrazinc, prompted the idea of marketing to editors of top health and fitness magazines to show them the properties of the new ingredient.
MMC transported the editors to Arizona, where they got to experience the benefits of the zinc-rich Sonoran Desert. Zinc was reinforced throughout with touch points such as product briefings that incorporated a celebrity stylist and a P&G beauty senior scientist to highlight the benefits of the hydrazinc formula. Zinc-rich foods were also served during dinner, and a customized spa treatment allowed editors to discover the healing powers of zinc.
MMC's efforts paid off with coverage in titles including Elle, Shape, and Redbook.
"We wanted [to give] the editors a highly experiential event so that they could see, touch, and smell HydraZinc," says Nancy Lowman LaBadie, EVP of the firm's consumer practice. "[The] zinc-rich Sonoran desert soil was the perfect environment to educate the editors about the product upgrade and help break trial barriers."
Traditional PR tactics can often get lost in the shuffle of the dynamic media environment, giving PR teams more of challenge when marketing a product that is more ordinary.
"You have products that are very high-interest, and then you have [those] that have been around forever that are not as high-interest," says Kathy Carliner, SVP at GolinHarris.
"In the latter case, it is key that you attach something that is fun and irresistible to get people's attention."
Tried-and-true PR methods may still be effective for products like Sony's PlayStation 2, which had people camped out in front of stores for its release. However, stealthy PR campaigns are often helpful when you market something that has yet to be released to the public and cannot generate the normal media buzz that comes from letting people experience the product for themselves.
Texas Instruments (TI) tapped Golin and Waggener Edstrom to help launch its DaVinci brand, a platform designed to solve customer problems in creating products that are incorporated with digital video. Golin and Wag Ed organized a global press conference with the company's CEO as the hook to attract media, never mentioning what announcement was going to be made. A set of binoculars was sent out to the press, instead of the traditional pre-briefing, to illustrate that the product is "visionary."
"The tried-and-true way of announcing a product is to pre-brief your editors and, when you announce, have a product in hand," says Kerry Gregg, TI's director of worldwide communications. "But we were going in an entirely different direction with DaVinci. We had to come up with different tactics and techniques [and] challenge the assumptions of how you roll out a product."
Generating buzz for a unique product or reviving a household name are two reasons that traditional PR tactics are often abandoned. However, Bob Domenz, president of PR firm Avenue, believes that traditional PR has lost its luster because mass media has lost its appeal.
"Marketers are becoming disenchanted with mass media," he says. "It doesn't offer the same measurable return for brand awareness anymore."
This may be why some PR pros choose to work with ad counterparts to produce campaigns that will grab the public's attention. In doing so, they sidestep the media entirely in hopes of generating media buzz through public interest in a product that may have gone unnoticed by the press.
"With non-traditional campaigns, you really need the buy-in of whomever is in the marketing mix," explains Carliner. "Having the support of the corporate team, the ad team, and the agencies you work with is very important."
Think about where you want to reach your target audience
Make your message clear to the consumer if using non-traditional PR tactics
Stay coordinated with the other members of the internal communications team
Forget a contingency plan. Be ready for every occurrence
Be afraid or feel threatened by getting involved with other communications teams, including the corporate side
Go halfway. Take a lot of risks with non-traditional tactics