CES effort develops momentum for e-reader launch

K-NFB Reading Technology developed Blio, a free e-reader application that allows users to view books in their original print format on various devices.

Client: K-NFB Reading Technology (Wellesley Hills, MA)
Agency: Conover Tuttle Pace (Boston)
Campaign: Blio Preview at CES
Duration: December 14, 2009 - February 1, 2010
Budget: Approximately $11,000

K-NFB Reading Technology developed Blio, a free e-reader application that allows users to view books in their original print format on various devices. Principal Peter Chapman says Blio had a “nonexistent ad budget,” so it turned to Conover Tuttle Pace (CTP) to introduce the application at CES (January 7-10) even though it wouldn't be available until this summer. 

“[Blio] can be branded by various retailers or hardware manufacturers, but they need lead time prior to launch…to get through their build cycles,” Chapman explains. “We needed to generate interest and start working relationships with companies that will brand and sell the product.”

Media and blogger relations drove awareness. CTP senior account director Todd Graff says outreach aimed to drive traffic to blioreader.com (launched January 6), generate online conversations and mentions, and deliver media testimonials.

“This was a different approach to the e-reader,” Graff explains. “People came to CES with singular devices and we came with a cross platform [application],” Graff explains. As there was no physical product, “we had do one-on-one demos. In three days at CES we knew we could only talk to 25-30 [outlets]. We had to hit influential [outlets]…so we could reach millions.”

To stress differentiation, BIio was deliberately absent from the e-reader section of CES.

One week prior to CES, the team leaked news about Blio to Wired News, the Financial Times, and Gizmodo. The team then targeted tech bloggers, tech media, and a few analysts. Messaging stressed points of differentiation.

Chapman says Microsoft, which helped with “some technical aspects” of the reader, offered to let Blio use its booth to let media and bloggers demo the application and interview K-NFB principal Ray Kurzweil. Interviews and demos were also conducted on the show floor and at a nearby hotel. 

Chapman calls the campaign “unbelievably successful,” noting that deals were inked with more than half of the world's computer manufacturers and four or five “major retailers.” He adds that CES buzz helped attract about $8 million in capital.

Website visits totaled nearly 211,000 from January 6 to June 6 (with more than 25,000 within 48 hours of launch). CTP reports more than 4,000 tweets and several thousand blog mentions (January 6-16). 

CNBC and MSNBC interviewed Kurzweil and announced the website launch in live, kick-off coverage of CES. Closing CES coverage included NPR's Laura Sydell citing Blio as her favorite product.

Chapman says capital raised has allowed Blio's relationship with CTP to continue. The team is working on launching the product now.

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