Taser uses Shift to trump negative brand perception

SCOTTSDALE, AZ: Taser International selected Shift Communications as its AOR to help battle the public's negative perceptions about the brand, explained Jeff Kukowski, EVP of marketing at the company.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ: Taser International selected Shift Communications as its AOR to help battle the public's negative perceptions about the brand, explained Jeff Kukowski, EVP of marketing at the company. He confirmed that the account is in the high-six-figures.

The agency will handle media relations, social media, and consumer messaging and strategy around the well-known electronic control devices for consumers and law enforcement. Shift will also help launch a consumer product called Protector, which aims to prevent mobile use while driving, as well as a law enforcement product called Axon, which enables constant video surveillance of an officer.

The goal, he explained, is for the agency to leverage positive consumer experiences in line with the company's “mission to protect life.”

The company has been without a PR agency for at least a year. During that time, it was taking “a little time to understand where it needed to go,” said Kukowski.

“The reason we're engaging Shift is I'm a big believer in PR,” he said. “The way in which we can change opinions over time is by having people tell their stories.”

He added that while 88% of general US publication on the brand is neutral to positive, the negative 12% receives an “overwhelming” amount of press, according to company research. And public opinion, reaching members of city council and state legislatures, affects sales to law enforcement. 

He said that over the next 12-18 months, via PR, he'd like to disassociate Taser with the word “electrocution.”

“I'd like [the public] to pick a phrase like ‘protect life,' and I think Shift will be able to do that for us.” 

While the agency will be focused on proactive consumer outreach, it'll work closely with the in-house VP of communications and government affairs team in DC.

Todd Defren, principal at Shift, added that the agency will focus on “offense” rather than “defense” to “soften the brand in the foreground” while the government affairs team focuses on crises.

“We understand that there are misperceptions about the brand,” he said. “We want to bring a message of prevention to consumers; it's a message of empowerment and safety versus harm.”

Kukowski joined Taser earlier this year. He had worked with Shift in the past and approached the agency, the only one considered for the account, in early August.

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